“With or Without You” is one of U2’s most beloved and classic songs. From their 1987 album The Joshua Tree, it was the Dublin band’s first-ever number-one hit in the US and Canada, leading the Billboard Top 100 for three weeks in a row.
The song is a beautiful meditation on love and on Bono’s own conflicted thoughts on his dual lives as both a rock star and a husband/father.
The song is U2’s most frequently covered hit, but at the 2016 Irish America Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in New York City, Irish violinist Gregory Harrington, joined by cellist Eleanor Norton, wowed the crowd with an adaptation of “With or Without You” for violin and cello.
Harrington, a world-class soloist and chamber musician from Dublin, is known for his unique mixture of classical influences of the likes of Bach and Beethoven with new arrangements of contemporary popular songs.
At the Hall of Fame event, he specifically chose “With or Without You” to play for Bill Clinton as he was honored with a lifetime achievement award because, as he explained, U2 is the former president’s favorite band.
It’s extraordinary to hear how, even without the lyrics, the song retains its poignancy and emotional impact.
Listen below to the introductory remarks and the song, or skip to 1:20 if you want to get straight to the music:
If this spectacular cover of "With or Without You" has you yearning for the original, you can check out the official video - featuring Bono in a leather vest - from U2 here:
*Originally published in March 2016. Last updated in May 2023.