David Howell Evans (born 8 August 1961), better known by his stage name The Edge (or just Edge), is a British-born Irish musician, songwriter and singer 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 13 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 Essex, England to a Welsh family, and 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. Several music publications have ranked the Edge among the greatest guitarists of all time.
David Howell Evans was born at the Barking Maternity Hospital, Essex, England. He is the second child of Welsh parents Garvin and Gwenda Evans. They were from Llanelli, a town in the heart of the industrial South Wales. Garvin was an engineer and worked for the local electricity board and then took a job with the electronics company Plessey. The Edge has an older brother Richard (often called Dick) and a little sister called Gillian.
The Evanses lived in Chadwell Heath, but some time around 1962, Garvin was offered a promotion, and a transfer. Edge's parents made the decision to leave Chadwell Heath and moved to County Dublin, Ireland, when Edge was one year old.
Growing up, said Edge in U2 by U2, he had two different accents, one he would use to communicate with his family and the other for his friends: "The reason for this dual identity was mainly to be understood by my peers, but also to be accepted."
The Edge 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. 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). 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. 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". The Edge married his secondary school girlfriend Aislinn O'Sullivan on 12 July 1983. The couple had three daughters together: Hollie in 1984, Arran in 1985 and Blue Angel in 1989. 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.
In 1993, The Edge began dating Morleigh Steinberg, a professional dancer and choreographer employed by the band as a belly dancer during the Zoo TV Tour. They had a daughter, Sian (born 1997), and a son, Levi (born 25 October 1999), before marrying on 22 June 2002. He appeared in the 2009 music documentary film It Might Get Loud. The Edge has been criticised for his efforts to build five luxury mansions on a 156-acre plot of land in Malibu, California. The California Coastal Commission voted 8â"4 against the plans, with the project described by the commission's executive director, Peter Douglas, as "In 38 years...one of the three worst projects that I've seen in terms of environmental devastation.Â ... It's a contradiction in terms â" you can't be serious about being an environmentalist and pick this location." 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.
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 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.
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.
Many different influences have shaped The Edge's guitar technique. 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. 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 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. 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.
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, 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 SinÃ©ad 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 bandmate Bono, recently 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.
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 and the 1983 "War" 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 actually holds upside down to expose the "dimples" when hitting the guitar strings to achieve a raspier chime.
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 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.
The Edge recently attended the Product Red event at Sotheby's in New York City alongside U2 bandmate Bono. Product Red raises money and awareness in an effort to deliver an AIDS free generation.
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 own list.
- Timeline of U2
- List of people on stamps of Ireland
- 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