It's been 30 years since U2 solidified themselves as one of the best acts in the world. Following The Unforgettable Fire, the band was still developing their songwriting style and sound and it was The Joshua Tree, released March 9, 1987, that catapulted the group into superstardom worldwide. The album spawned several top hits that are still some of the band's signature songs and went on to sell millions across the globe. Since then, U2 has become the best-selling touring act of all time and went on to win a total of 22 Grammy Awards in their career thus far.
The Joshua Tree was inspired by an American theme with Irish roots with an original working title of The Two Americas. The album's lyrics were written by Bono and he directed anger at the Ronald Reagan administration and its foreign policy in Central America where Bono would visit and write the hit "Where the Streets Have No Name." All but two songs were recorded "live" versus layering tracks, and American themes can be heard in the rip-roaring "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "In God's Country." Sonically, American stylings are heard on the Gospel influenced "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and the bluesy Americana "Trip Through Your Wires." The Joshua Tree saw the band defining their heavier sound which would become their distinct vibe for albums to come especially through The Edge's intricate guitar works.
The band's fifth studio album reached No. 1 on the BIllboard Top Pop Albums chart within three weeks and would remain at No. 1 for nine consecutive weeks and would spend 110 weeks on the chart throughout its run. By the end of May 1987, the album had been certified double Platinum for shipments in excess of two million copies with lead single "With or Without You" becoming U2's first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The band scored a second U.S. No. 1 with second single "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." At the end of 1988, The Joshua Tree went on to sell over 14 million copies worldwide.
The album also earned accolades including nominations and awards for some of the biggest prizes in music. In 1987, Rolling Stone readers voted U2 the best in several categories. U2 earned "Best Album," "Artist of the Year," "Best Band" and "Best Single" for "With or Without You." At the 1988 Grammy Awards, U2 won the top honor of Album of the Year while also being nominated in the other two prestigious categories, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Winning Album of the Year, U2 bested the likes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince. U2 took home another Grammy that night for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group for the song "Desire" featured on Rattle and Hum.
In 1995, The Joshua Tree was certified 10x Platinum with a Diamond certificate as well and has since sold over 25 million copies worldwide becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. In 2014, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame while also being selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the U.S. Library of Congress. Works preserved are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
In 2007, the album was remastered and re-released as a collector's edition for the 20th anniversary. Each edition included bonus material including an album of leftovers, b-sides and demos from the sessions.