“Angel of Harlem” is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the tenth track on their 1988 studio album Rattle and Hum and was released as its second single in December 1988. It peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart, number eight on the Dutch Top 40, number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number one on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Written as a homage to Billie Holiday, it was released with two different B-sides; one was an original U2 song called “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel,” while the other was a live version of Rattle and Hums “Love Rescue Me”.

“Angel of Harlem” was written during 1987’s Joshua Tree Tour and the in-studio performance on the Rattle and Hum movie dates from a recording session at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee during the later stages of the tour’s third leg. The song was a regular on 1989’s Lovetown Tour and was played with B.B. King’s band. A stripped-down acoustic rendition was performed on the Zoo TV Tour in 1992 and 1993 on a b-stage positioned in the midst of the crowd. It was then not played again until 2001’s Elevation Tour, when it was sometimes performed acoustically and sometimes in its original electric style, albeit without the brass section.

angel of harlem

The only performances on 2005’s Vertigo Tour came when a fan was pulled on stage in Dallas in late October to play guitar. The fan asked to play “Angel of Harlem” and although Bono’s knowledge of the lyrics was poor, the band agreed to the request and the fan played the song along with them.

The song has also been performed on 2009’s U2 360° Tour with dedications to Michael Jackson, and included snippets of “Man in the Mirror” and “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough.” In the Berlin concert of the 360° Tour three young fans from Prague, Czech Republic, held signs asking to play “Angel of Harlem” together with U2, Bono invited them to the stage, the band lent them the instruments and they played the song together.

Lyrics:

It was a cold and wet December day
When we touched the ground at J.F.K.
The snow was melting on the ground
On B.L.S. I heard the sound
(Of an angel).
New York like a Christmas tree
Tonight, this city belongs to me,
(Angel).

Soul love
Well this love won’t let me go.
So long
Angel of Harlem.

Birdland on Fifty-Three
The street sounds like a symphony
We got John Coltrane and a love supreme
Miles and she’s got to be an angel.
Lady Day got diamond eyes
She sees the truth behind the lies
(Angel).

Soul love
Well this love won’t let me go.
So long
Angel of Harlem.

Blue light on the avenue
God knows they got to you
Empty glass, the lady sings
Eyes swollen like a bee-sting.

Blinded, you lost your way
In the side streets and the alleyways
Like a star exploding in the night
Filling up the city with broad daylight.

Angel in devil’s shoes
Salvation in the blues
You never looked like an angel
Angel of Harlem.

U2 – Angel of Harlem
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