The Edge in 2018
|Birth name||David Howell Evans|
8 August 1961|
Barking, Essex, England, United Kingdom
|Genres||Rock, post-punk, alternative rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer, songwriter|
|Instruments||Guitar, keyboards, vocals|
|Associated acts||U2, Passengers, Bono|
David Howell Evans (born 8 August 1961), better known by his stage name the Edge (or just Edge), is an Irish musician and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalist of the rock band U2. A member of the group since its inception, he has recorded 14 studio albums with the band as well as one solo record. As a guitarist, the Edge has crafted a minimalistic and textural style of playing. His use of a rhythmic delay effect yields a distinctive ambient, chiming sound that has become a signature of U2's music.
The Edge was born in England to a Welsh family, and was raised in Ireland after the Evans family moved there. In 1976, at Mount Temple Comprehensive School he formed a band with his fellow students and elder brother Dik that would evolve into U2. Inspired by the ethos of punk rock and its basic arrangements, the group began to write its own material. They eventually became one of the most successful acts in popular music, with albums such as 1987's The Joshua Tree and 1991's Achtung Baby. Over the years, the Edge has experimented with various guitar effects and introduced influences from several genres of music into his own style, including American roots music, industrial music, and alternative rock. With U2, the Edge has also played keyboards, co-produced their 1993 record Zooropa, and occasionally served as co-lyricist. The Edge met his second wife Morleigh Steinberg through her collaborations with the band.
As a member of U2 and as an individual, the Edge has campaigned for human rights and philanthropic causes. He co-founded Music Rising, a charity to support musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina. He has collaborated with U2 bandmate Bono on several projects, including songs for Roy Orbison and Tina Turner, and the soundtracks to the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the Royal Shakespeare Company's London stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. As a member of U2, the Edge has won 22 Grammy Awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Several music publications have ranked the Edge among the greatest guitarists of all time.
David Howell Evans was born at the Barking Maternity Hospital, in the county of Essex in England, on 8 August 1961. He is the second child of Welsh parents Garvin and Gwenda Evans, both of whom grew up in Llanelli, a coastal town in South Wales. Garvin was an engineer who worked for the local electricity board, and subsequently worked for the electronics company Plessey. The Edge has an elder brother Richard (often called Dik) and a younger sister called Gillian.
During his childhood in Dublin he possessed two differing accents to converse in, Welsh and Irish English, the former being used when he was in the family home and the latter when he was outside; as he later explained: "The reason for this dual identity was mainly to be understood by my peers but also to be accepted."
He received his initial formal education at St. Andrew's National School, in Malahide. As a child, he also received piano and guitar lessons, and practised music with his brother Richard.
Whilst the Evans brothers were at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin in 1976, they went along to a meeting in response to an advert posted by another pupil, Larry Mullen Jr., on the school's noticeboard seeking musicians to form a new band with him. Among the several other pupils who also responded to the note were Paul Hewson and Adam Clayton. The band went through a number of reformations before becoming known as U2 in March 1978 (Richard Evans having left before this to join another band, leaving his younger brother as the lead guitarist).
Early in the band's career, Evans was given the nickname "The Edge" by members of the Lypton Village surrealist street gang to which Bono belonged. The nickname was derived from the angular shape of Evans' head. However, the origin of the name is disputed and other theories include a description of his guitar playing and his preference for not becoming fully involved and therefore remaining on the edge of things.
U2 began its public performance life in small venues in Dublin in 1977, occasionally playing at other venues elsewhere in Ireland. In December 1979 they performed their first concerts outside Ireland, in London, and in 1980 began extensive touring across the British Isles, developing a following. Their debut album Boy was released in 1980.
In 1981, leading up to the October Tour, Evans came very close to leaving U2 for religious reasons, but he decided to stay. During this period he became involved with a group called Shalom Tigers, in which bandmates Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. were also involved. Shortly after deciding to remain with the band, he wrote a piece of music that later became "Sunday Bloody Sunday".
Evans married his secondary school girlfriend Aislinn O'Sullivan on 12 July 1983. They have three daughters: Hollie (born in 1984), Arran (in 1985) and 'Blue Angel' (in 1989). The couple separated in 1990, but were unable to get legally divorced because of Irish laws regarding marriage annulment at the time; divorce was legalised in 1995, and the couple legally divided in 1996. Evans is a Protestant Christian.
In 1993, he began dating Morleigh Steinberg, an American professional dancer and choreographer whom he had met whilst she was employed as a dancer during the band's Zoo TV Tour. They have a daughter, Sian (born 1997), and a son, Levi (born 25 October 1999). The couple were married in 2002.
Evans has been criticised for his efforts to build five luxury mansions on a 156-acre (63.13-hectare) plot of land in Malibu, California. The California Coastal Commission voted 8–4 against the plans. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy agreed to remain neutral on the issue following a US$1 million donation from Evans and a commitment to designate 100 acres of the land as open space for public footpaths.
—The Edge in 1991
As a guitar player, The Edge has a sound typified by a low-key playing style, a chiming, shimmering sound (thanks in part to the sound of Vox AC30s) that he achieves with extensive use of delay effects and reverb. The repeat delay is often set to a dotted eighth note, and the feedback gain is adjusted until a note played repeats two or three times.
In 1987's The Joshua Tree, The Edge often contributes just a few simple lead lines given depth and richness by an ever-present delay. For example, the introduction to "Where the Streets Have No Name" is simply a repeated six-note arpeggio, broadened by a modulated delay effect. The Edge has said that he views musical notes as "expensive", in that he prefers to play as few notes as possible. He said in 1982 of his style,
I like a nice ringing sound on guitar, and most of my chords I find two strings and make them ring the same note, so it's almost like a 12-string sound. So for E I might play a B, E, E and B and make it ring. It works very well with the Gibson Explorer. It's funny because the bass end of the Explorer was so awful that I used to stay away from the low strings, and a lot of the chords I played were very trebly, on the first four, or even three strings. I discovered that through using this one area of the fretboard I was developing a very stylized way of doing something that someone else would play in a normal way.
His first guitar was an old acoustic guitar that his mother bought him at a local flea market for a few pounds; he was nine at the time. He and his brother Dik Evans both experimented with this instrument. He said in 1982 of this early experimentation, "I suppose the first link in the chain was a visit to the local jumble sale where I purchased a guitar for a pound. That was my first instrument. It was an acoustic guitar and me and my elder brother Dik both played it, plonking away, all very rudimentary stuff, open chords and all that." The Edge has stated that many of his guitar parts are based around guitar effects. This is especially true from the Achtung Baby era onwards, although much of the band's 1980s material made heavy use of echos.
The Edge also supplies the backing vocals for U2. U2's 1983 live album and video release, Under a Blood Red Sky and Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky are good reference points for his singing (as are the live DVDs from the Elevation Tour, U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle and Elevation 2001: Live from Boston). For example, he sings the chorus to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (Bono harmonises on the final 'Sunday'). U2 used this tradeoff technique later in "Bullet the Blue Sky" as well. His backing vocals are sometimes in the form of a repeated cry; examples of songs that use this approach include "Beautiful Day", "New Year's Day" and "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)". Another technique he uses in his backing vocals is the falsetto, in songs such as "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of", "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own", "A Man and a Woman", "The Wanderer", live versions of "The Fly", and "Window in the Skies".
The Edge sings the lead vocal on "Van Diemen's Land" and "Numb", the first half of the song "Seconds", dual vocals with Bono in "Discotheque", and the bridge in the song "Miracle Drug". He also sings the occasional lead vocal in live renditions of other songs (such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" during the PopMart Tour and "Party Girl" during the Rotterdam Zoo TV show when it was Bono's birthday), and has sung the second verse of the "Stand by Me" cover on a few shows. A solo acoustic version of the song "Love is Blindness", that is featured in the documentary film From the Sky Down, is sung by him as well.
He has played keyboards on many of the band's songs, including "I Fall Down", "October", "So Cruel", "New Year's Day", "Running to Stand Still", "Miss Sarajevo", "The Hands that Built America", and "Original of the Species" and others. In live versions of "New Year's Day", "The Unforgettable Fire", "Your Blue Room", "Moment of Surrender" and "Raised By Wolves", he plays both the piano and guitar parts alternately. In most live versions of "Original of the Species," piano is the only instrument played during the song. Although The Edge is the band's lead guitarist, he occasionally plays bass guitar, including the live performances of the song "40" where The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton switch instruments.
Other musical pursuits
In addition to his regular role within U2, The Edge has also recorded with such artists as Johnny Cash, B. B. King, Tina Turner, Ronnie Wood, Jah Wobble, Holger Czukay, Jay-Z, and Rihanna. The Edge connected with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois collaborator Michael Brook (the creator of the infinite guitar, which he regularly uses), working with him on the score to the film Captive (1986). From this soundtrack the song "Heroine", the vocal of which was sung by a young Sinéad O'Connor was released as a single.
He also created the theme song for season one and two of The Batman. He and fellow U2 member Bono wrote the theme of the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye. The Edge, along with Bono, composed a musical adaptation of Spider-Man. On 25 May 2011, a single titled "Rise Above 1" by Reeve Carney featuring Bono and The Edge was released digitally. The music video was released on 28 July 2011.
In 2008, the Edge participated in the Davis Guggenheim-directed documentary film It Might Get Loud. The film examines the history of the electric guitar, focusing on the careers and styles of the Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White. The film premiered on 5 September 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival
The Edge plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, piano, bass guitar (on "40" and "Race Against Time") and lap steel guitar. Detailed gear diagrams of The Edge's U2 guitar rig for the 1981 "October" Tour, the 1983 "War" Tour, and the 2009 "360°" Tour are well-documented. Key to his signature sound are the use of modulated delays, namely a Korg SDD-3000 delay unit made in the early 80's, as well as a special Herdim guitar pick, which Edge holds upside down to expose the "dimples" when hitting the guitar strings to achieve a raspier chime. For his main amplification, The Edge uses a vintage Vox AC30 particularly a 1964 JMI-era "Top Boost" model chassis fitted into an early 70's cabinet. In 2016, Fender unveiled a signature guitar model, The Edge Signature Stratocaster, which The Edge has been using on the most recent tours to replace his vintage 70's Stratocasters.
The Edge, Bob Ezrin and Henry Juszkiewicz co-founded Music Rising in 2005, a charity that helped provide replacement instruments for those that were lost in Hurricane Katrina. The instruments were originally only replaced for professional musicians but they soon realised the community churches and schools needed instruments as well. The charity's slogan is "Rebuilding the Gulf Region note by note" and has so far helped over a hundred musicians who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Edge also serves on the board of the Angiogenesis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving global health by advancing angiogenesis-based medicine, diets, and lifestyle.
In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine placed him at number 38 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". In 2012, Spin ranked him 13th on their list. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Bono and the Edge at number 35 on its list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. At the 2017 Bonnaroo Music Festival, the Edge was honoured with the Les Paul Spirit Award by the Les Paul Foundation for being someone who "exemplifies the spirit of the late, great Les Paul through innovation, engineering, technology and/or music".
- McCormick (2006), pp. 21, 23–24
- Dunphy (1988), p. 70
- McCormick (2006), pp. 27–30
- McCormick (2006), pp. 46–48
- McCormick (2006), p. 68
- McGee (2008), p. 9
- "Biography of U2's guitarist, The Edge". www.threechordsandthetruth.net. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
- McCormick (2006), pp. 117–120
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- McCormick (2006), p. 144
- "U2's The Edge: 'Being Protestant in an ostensibly Catholic country... it felt strange'". Belfast Telegraph. 7 May 2016.
- "U2 star's plans push Malibu over the edge". The Independent. 18 June 2011.
- Flanagan (1996), p. 43
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- "'Spider-Man' star Reeve Carney in new video with Bono, the Edge". Latimesblog.latimes.com. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
- Denham, Jess (3 May 2016). "The Edge becomes first rock star to play the Sistine Chapel". The Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- Cooper, Adam (18 March 2012). "The Edge's 1981 Guitar Rig". GuitarGeek.Com.
- Cooper, Adam (20 March 2012). "The Edge's 1983 Guitar Rig". GuitarGeek.Com.
- "The Angiogenesis Foundation: People". Archived from the original on 26 February 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2009.
- McGinley, Laurie (20 June 2017). "U2's The Edge talks up food as an anti-cancer weapon". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
- "100 Greatest Guitarists: The Edge". Rolling Stone. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- Spin Staff (3 May 2012). "SPIN's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Spin. SpinMedia. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
- "The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time". Rolling Stone. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
- Kreps, Daniel (14 June 2017). "Watch U2's The Edge Receive Les Paul Spirit Award at Bonnaroo". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Dunphy, Eamon (1988). Unforgettable Fire: The Story of U2. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-010766-5.
- Flanagan, Bill (1996). U2 at the End of the World (Paperback ed.). New York: Delta. ISBN 978-0-385-31157-1.
- U2 (2006). McCormick, Neil, ed. U2 by U2. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-719668-7.
- McGee, Matt (2008). U2: A Diary. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-108-2.
- U2.com, official U2 site
- Music Rising, a campaign for replacing the musical instruments lost or destroyed by the catastrophic 2005 US hurricanes
- A study of The Edge's guitar delay
- Comment on the mathematical analysis of The Edge's guitar sound