So, about “Breathe” … have you been wondering why it starts, “16th of June …” ? Me too. Sure, I thought it was a reference to Bloomsday, and that might still be all Bono is pointing to. It would work. The lyrics read like a sort of day-in-the-life account of a joyful man, full of hope and confidence to just walk out into the sunburst street.
But when looking at the page in the NLOTH Deluxe box book, I saw there was a “Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela” version of the song with different lyrics (and a note that July18th is Mandela’s birthday).
If he had Mandela on the mind, I wonder if Bono’s thinking also went to South Africa’s Youth Day and what it memorializes:
It is a day violently etched on the South African collective conscience. Commemorated over 30 years later as Youth Day, an official holiday, it is the day that honours the deaths of hundreds of Soweto schoolchildren, a day that changed the course of the country’s history: 16 June 1976. (read more here)
So when it came time to record a version of “Breathe,” Bono went with mostly different lyrics than the Nelson Mandela version has, but might have chosen to keep a focus on South Africa’s history with this date as the opening lyric. Did you know about The June 16, 1976 Foundation?