The Edge

The Edge
The Edge
Background information
Birth name David Howell Evans
Born 8 August 1961 (1961-08-08) (age 50)
Barking, London, England
Origin County Dublin, Ireland
Genres Rock, post-punk, alternative rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter, activist
Instruments Guitar, vocals, keyboards, piano, bass guitar
Years active 1976–present
Labels Island (1980–2006)
Mercury (2006–present)
Associated acts U2, Passengers
Notable instruments
Gibson Explorer
Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Les Paul
Fender Telecaster
Gretsch Country Gentleman
Gretsch White Falcon
Rickenbacker 330/12

David Howell Evans (born 8 August 1961), more widely known by his stage name The Edge (or just Edge),[1] is a musician best known as the guitarist, backing vocalist, and keyboardist of the Irish rock band U2. A member of the group since its inception, he has recorded 12 studio albums with the band and has released 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, but was raised in Ireland after moving there as an infant. In 1976, at Mount Temple Comprehensive School, he formed U2 with his fellow students and his older brother Dik. 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 popular acts in popular music, with successful 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 contributed lyrics. The Edge met his second and current 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. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine placed him at number 24 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".


Personal life

David Howell Evans was born at the Barking Maternity Hospital,[2] Essex, England to Welsh parents Garvin and Gwenda Evans.[1] When he was one, his family moved to County Dublin, Ireland where he attended St. Andrew's National School. He received piano and guitar lessons and often performed with his brother Dik Evans before they both answered an advertisement posted by Larry Mullen, Jr. at their school, Mount Temple Comprehensive School, seeking musicians to form a band.[3] The band accepted both of them. This band went through several incarnations before emerging as U2 in March 1978 (Dik Evans left the band just before the name change).[3] U2 began performing in various venues in Ireland and eventually began 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.[3] During this period, he became involved with a group called Shalom Tigers, in which bandmates Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. were also involved.[4] Shortly after deciding to remain with the band, he wrote a piece of music that later became "Sunday Bloody Sunday".[3] The Edge married his high school girlfriend Aislinn O'Sullivan on 12 July 1983.[5] The couple had three daughters together: Hollie in 1984, Arran in 1985 and Blue Angel in 1989.[4] The couple separated in 1990, but were unable to get officially divorced because of Irish laws regarding marriage annulment; divorce was legalised in 1995 and the couple were legally divorced in 1996.[4]

The Edge at a U2 concert in Anaheim (2005)

During U2's Zoo TV Tour, The Edge began to date Morleigh Steinberg, a professional dancer and choreographer employed by the band as a belly dancer for the tour's live performances. The couple began dating in 1993, and had their daughter, Sian, in 1997, and a son, Levi, (25 October 1999).[4] They were married on 22 June 2002.[4]

He appeared in the 2009 music documentary film It Might Get Loud.[6]

The Edge has been criticized for his efforts to build five luxury mansions on a 156 acre plot of land in Malibu, California.[7] The California Coastal Commission voted 8-4 against the plans, with the project described by the commission's executive director, Peter Douglas, as "In 38 of the three worst projects that I've seen in terms of environmental devastation...It's a contradiction in terms – you can't be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location."[7] The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy agreed to remain neutral on the issue following a $1 million donation from The Edge and a commitment from The Edge to designate 100 acres of the land as open space for public footpaths.[7]

Music style

"Notes actually do mean something. They have power. I think of notes as being expensive. You don't just throw them around. I find the ones that do the best job and that's what I use. I suppose I'm a minimalist instinctively. I don't like to be inefficient if I can get away with it. Like on the end of 'With or Without You'. My instinct was to go with something very simple. Everyone else said, 'Nah, you can't do that.' I won the argument and I still think it's sort of brave, because the end of 'With or Without You' could have been so much bigger, so much more of a climax, but there's this power to it which I think is even more potent because it's held back... ultimately I'm interested in music. I'm a musician. I'm not a gunslinger. That's the difference between what I do and what a lot of guitar heroes do."

—The Edge in 1991.[8]

Guitar playing

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 AC-30s) that he achieves with extensive use of delay effects and reverb. The feedback delay is often set to a dotted eighth note (3/16 of a measure), and the feedback gain is adjusted until a note played repeats two or three times.[citation needed]

On 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."[9]

Many different influences have shaped The Edge's guitar technique.[citation needed] His first guitar was an old acoustic guitar that his mother bought him at a local flea market for only a few pounds; he was nine at the time. He and his brother Dik Evans both experimented with this instrument.[9] 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."[9]

The Edge in June 2005

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 harmonizes 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!)". Other technique he uses in his backing vocals is the falsetto, for instance in "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".[4] 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).[10]

Other instruments

He has played piano and 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. He plays the organ on "Please". In live versions of "New Year's Day", "The Unforgettable Fire", "Your Blue Room", and "Moment of Surrender", 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.

Solo recordings

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, Jay-Z, and Rihanna.

The Edge connected with Brian Eno and 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 lyrics to the theme of the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye. The Edge, along with fellow bandmate Bono, recently composed a musical adaptation of Spider-Man. On May 25, 2011, a single titled Rise Above 1: Reeve Carney Featuring Bono and The Edge was released digitally.[11] The music video was released on July 28, 2011.[12]

Musical equipment

Edge's 1964 Vox AC30 on stage in Foxborough for the U2 360° Tour.

The Edge plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, piano, bass guitar (on "40" and "Race Against Time") and lap steel guitar.

Compared to many lead guitarists, The Edge is known for using many more guitars during a show. According to his guitar tech Dallas Schoo, a typical lead guitarist uses four or five different guitars in one night, whereas The Edge takes 45 on the road, and uses 17 to 19 in one 2.5-hour concert. He is estimated to have more than 200 guitars in the studio.[citation needed]


In 2005, The Edge along with Bob Ezrin and Henry Juszkiewicz co-founded Music Rising, 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 realized 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 organization dedicated to improving global health by advancing angiogenesis-based medicine, diets, and lifestyle.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b McCormick (2006), p. 21
  2. ^ Dunphy (1988), p. 70
  3. ^ a b c d McCormick (2006), pp. 117–120
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The Edge biography (@U2)". Retrieved 9 September 2007. 
  5. ^ McCormick (2006), p. 144
  6. ^ "It Might Get Loud". Retrieved 20 March 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c "U2 star's plans push Malibu over the edge". The Independent. 18 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Flanagan (1996), p. 43
  9. ^ a b c "On the Edge of Success". U2 Magazine No. 3. 1 May 1982. Retrieved 6 November 2007. 
  10. ^ "U2 Rotterdam, 10 May 1993, Feyenoord Stadion, ZOO TV Tour – U1". 
  11. ^ Rise Above 1 by Reeve Carney feat. Bono and the Edge | Rolling Stone Music | Album Reviews. (2011-05-26). Retrieved on 2011-07-29.
  12. ^ 'Spider-Man' star Reeve Carney in new video with Bono, the Edge (2011-07-28) Retrieved on 2011-07-29.
  13. ^ "The Angiogenesis Foundation: People". Retrieved 12/7/2009. 
  • 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. 

External links

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