U2 planted the seeds for The Joshua Tree during an existential journey through America. As Irishmen in the 1970s, the band grew up with the belief that America was a place of freedom and prosperity, a symbol of hope and a refuge for all people. However, global politics of the 1980s undermined that impression and fostered hypocritical policies that manipulated Americans and devastated people around the world.
Originally conceived as "The Two Americas," The Joshua Tree was U2's critique of America. Rather than living up to the ideal that the country was "an idea that belongs to people who need it most," the band found that America sacrificed equality and justice for populism and fascism. This book explores the political, social, and cultural themes rooted in The Joshua Tree when it was originally released in 1987 and how those themes resonated as a response to the election of Donald Trump when U2 toured for the album's 30th anniversary.
The author juxtaposes the band's existential journey through America with his own journey connecting with his Irish roots by becoming a citizen in the age of Trump and places U2's and The Joshua Tree's relevance in context with the current political climate.
Bradley Morgan is a media arts professional in Chicago. He manages partnerships on behalf of the Chicago Independent Radio Project, serves on the associate board of the Art Institute of Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center, and volunteers in the music archive at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Morgan has written music features for CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM's award-winning blog and Discogs. He is an avid reader and enjoys hiking.
“U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America is a meticulously researched cultural and historical analysis that offers new insights into a familiar album. Morgan draws on archival interviews and critical material, as well as his own first-hand observations and close listening, to make a strong case for the enduring resonance of both U2 and The Joshua Tree. When Morgan introduces his personal journey with the band and its music, his insightful writing reinforces the book's arguments and themes—and deepens the overall emotional impact.”
—Annie Zaleski, author of the 33 1/3 book on Duran Duran's Rio
"In his book U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America, author Bradley Morgan offers his readers an expertly researched analysis of the tenacious humanity found within a timeless album and its continued relevancy in our cultural moment. Through its dissection of global and sociopolitical circumstances as aligned with the tracks on The Joshua Tree, the book posits itself not only as a critical analysis of the album as an important piece of music history but also a critique of American policy both foreign and domestic. By comparing the Reagan and Trump administrations as the flawed, unforgiving, and outright immoral forces they were through the lens of Irish musicians rooting deep into Americana, U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America offers keen insight into the ways in which, verse by verse, history rhymes."
—Nikki Stout, Online Media Director, CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM (Chicago Independent Radio Project)
"Bradley Morgan's look at U2's The Joshua Tree is a compelling account of the complexities within the album and the world that shaped its creation during the mid-1980s. He delves deeply into the Irish band's adoration of American culture and its opposition to the Reagan administration's global betrayal of democratic ideals. As the group became aware of its own musical limitations, these four musicians sought to open their sound to influences from across the planet. Morgan also binds that period to the political insanity that emerged just as U2 was marking this album's 30th anniversary. This is a crucial depiction of the intersections of great music, deep faith, and deadly politics from decades ago and Morgan vividly shows why that era must never be forgotten."
—Aaron Cohen, author of Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power
“Reading Bradley Morgan take The Joshua Tree to heart as his guiding album is an inspiring tribute to the search I think U2 hopes each fan embarks on: making a better place for one and all out of the circumstances of life."
—Scott Calhoun, Director of The U2 Conference and Professor of English, Cedarville University
“For the author, the story about The Joshua Tree and what it represents obviously resonates deeply and strongly. The book is multilayered, and on one hand, it is a story about this significant cultural artifact. But, on the other hand, this book is Morgan's quest or personal pilgrimage in search of his own individual identity in the 21C and the identity of his collective. It's as if he is on a mission in search of some of the ideals that this album stands for. In that quest, we all look for ideals as our guiding light in these treacherous times; The Joshua Tree stands as a beacon of light and a sign of hope in this chaotic world.
U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America is thoughtful, illuminating, well-researched, well-structured and well-written. Morgan diligently sifts through a myriad of sources such as various interviews, books, and documentaries, and digs deep into the narrative thus providing a fresh insight into this great record and what it stands for.”
—Nenad Georgievski, AllAboutJazz.com