The Hands That Built America
|"The Hands That Built America"|
"The Hands That Built America" cover
|Song by U2 from the album Gangs of New York: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture|
|Released||December 17, 2002|
|Length||4:35 (Soundtrack Mix)
4:58 (Acoustic Version)
"The Hands That Built America" is a song by U2, released on the soundtrack to the film Gangs of New York. It was one of two new songs on their The Best of 1990–2000 compilation, with the other being "Electrical Storm". It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 75th Academy Awards, but lost to Eminem's inspirational song "Lose Yourself."
"The Hands That Built America" is a song about New York. The first verse of the song makes reference to the Irish Potato Famine, and the resulting imigration of millions of Irish people to the United States; a fact reflected in the demographics of New York City. The second verse relates to the American Dream, and the ideal that anyone can be a success if they work hard. The third verse is about Bill Clinton's successful mediation between Ireland and the United Kingdom. The final verse is about the September 11 attacks.
The song was considered for single release and was announced as such for a 2003 release. The songs "The Playboy Mansion" (2003 Version - originally from Pop) and "That's Life" (a cover song by Bono and released on the soundtrack for The Good Thief) were announced as B-sides. The release was canceled, however.
Soundtrack and inspiration
The soundtrack mix of the song features Andrea Corr, who played the tin whistle, and Sharon Corr who played the violin. The title of the song was inspired by Horslips title track to their album "The Man Who Built America" with the full blessing of Horslips singer and bass player Barry Devlin, who had also produced a number of U2 videos. In Gangs of New York the song is played with a long and grand intro and plays over the final sequence and the closing credits.
U2 have performed this song live in its entirety seven times, the first being at the premiere of Gangs of New York on December 9, 2002, and the last occurrence done solely by Bono and The Edge as an acoustic performance at the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas on November 18, 2004.
Although "The Hands That Built America" has not been played live since 2004, it was included at every concert on the Vertigo Tour (2005–2006) as a snippet during performances of "Bullet the Blue Sky". This took place in conjunction with snippets of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and sometimes "Please".
Two different music videos were created for "The Hands That Built America". The first uses a combination of black-and-white footage of the band playing the song, and scenes from Gangs of New York. This video uses the version of the song found on The Best of 1990–2000 CD. The second video is composed solely of black-and-white footage of U2 playing the song, and it was filmed on May 9 2002. This video uses an acoustic version of the song, and is the version found on The Best of 1990–2000 DVD.