The Wanderer (U2 song)

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For other songs titled "The Wanderer," see Wanderer (disambiguation).
"The Wanderer"
Song by U2 starring Johnny Cash from the album Zooropa
Released July 1993
Genre Electronic rock
Length 5:41
Label Island
Zooropa track listing
"Dirty Day"
"The Wanderer"

"The Wanderer" is the tenth and final track from U2's 1993 album, Zooropa. It is one of the few U2 songs without Bono on lead vocals, instead featuring country singer Johnny Cash. The Edge provides harmonising backing-vocals throughout the song, but the country style howl at the end is by Bono.

Cash recorded the vocals for the song in Dublin in February 1993 during the Zooropa sessions. The song underwent several provisional titles, including "The Preacher"[1] and "Wandering".[2] Producer Brian Eno tried to get Bono to sing the song, but Bono maintained it was Cash's voice he imagined singing the song. Bono and Cash had previously worked on a song called "Ellis Island".[3]

The lyrics describe a man searching for God in a post-Apocalyptic world. There is little guitar and Adam Clayton's synthesised bassline is the prominent musical sound throughout the song, although Larry Mullen's drumbeats can be heard.

Johnny Cash performed it on at least one occasion at the Nevada County fairgrounds in Grass Valley, California, in August 1993. U2 played it in a television special entitled I Walk the Line: A Night for Johnny Cash, following Cash's death in 2003, with The Edge adding dramatic falsetto background vocals. On 2 July 2011, U2 performed a lengthy snippet of the song, running for two verses, in Nashville, Tennessee as a part of the U2 360° Tour. Bono performed it with a deep, growling baritone voice as a tribute to Cash. [4]

An extended version of the song including an extra verse is included on the soundtrack to the film Faraway, So Close! The extended version is 5:16 in length. The song was included on the Johnny Cash compilations, The Essential Johnny Cash (Legacy/Columbia, 2003) and The Legend of Johnny Cash (American/Island, 2005) and The Legend.

At the end of the song (on most versions of Zooropa), there's a minute of complete silence. Following this, an alarm-sound fades in (at 5:14). The alarm sound repeats, even once it has completely started (at about 5:20). The alarm sound finishes at 5:38. The remaining three seconds are silent. Apparently, this is the same sound some DJs hear after 10 seconds of dead air.[5]

According to William Richey and Kevin J.H. Dettmar, U2 "skillfully exploited the image of Johnny Cash in a... provocative way", clarifying that "they seemingly imbue their vision of a postapocalyptic wasteland with a deeper sense of poignance and sincerity because Cash's storied voice is associated in the public mind with a man whose very public struggles with drugs, alcohol, and love prove that he has 'walked the line'."[6]

The song is used as the intermission song for U2's 2015 Innocence + Experience Tour.


  1. ^ Verna, Paul (12 June 1993). "U2 re-inks with Island; 9th album to bow July 6". Billboard 105 (24): 12. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  2. ^ Rolling Stone (1994), p. 201
  3. ^ McGee (2008), p. 158
  4. ^
  5. ^ Thijs van Thienen, Cristiano Godinho. "Discography FAQ". U2 faqs. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Richey, Dettmar (1999), p. 4