'CMT All-Time Top 40': U2

Country Artists Count Down Their Favorite Artists

Globe-trotting rockers U2 may seem out of place on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice, but country stars have strong reasons for placing the band at No. 35 on the list of their favorite artists ever.

One by one, the countdown is revealed each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.

Each influential musician or band is ranked based on an artist poll conducted by CMT among the biggest stars in country music. The ballot isn't limited to just country artists, so over the course of 2014, CMT All-Time Top 40 highlights artists from all genres that influence country's biggest names.

Formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1976 by four schoolmates, U2 rose to international fame on the strength of personal but culturally-insightful songwriting. Over the years, the band tailored its rock-based sound to the current trends in pop music.

After the release of their landmark 1987 album The Joshua Tree, members Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. became household names in the U.S. Songs from that album -- including "Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With or Without You" -- continue to receive radio airplay to this day. The band's star power has grown exponentially, giving lead singer Bono a platform to promote social change around the world.

Still touring and recording regularly, U2 is renowned for their massive live concerts. Their 360° tour from 2009-2011 required hundreds of tractor trailers to transport the largest stage construction ever built, nicknamed "The Claw."

Despite their European roots, U2 did seek out a country music education. John Carter Cash described the famous ties between the band and his late father, Johnny Cash.

"My father, he created a kinship with Bono," Carter Cash revealed. "First from writing letters. Bono had a vision for writing a song, and he and my dad wrote lyrics back and forth, talked on the telephone. ... They had an instant connection because Bono and my dad were both like scholars.

"My dad never judged an artist based necessarily on their music. I mean, yes, he loved their music. But he judged an artist based on their integrity -- you know, who they were in spirit, whether he could honestly relate to what they believed in. He would stand up for artists that you maybe wouldn't think Johnny Cash would. It was normal for him to do that because he believed in who they were as a person."

Country stars Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker and LeAnn Rimes were among those agreeing that U2 deserves a spot on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice.

"I really love the energy of U2, not only in the writing but the live show," said Bentley. "It just such an intense experience, and I guess the one thing that I really love about that band is their roots and ties to country music. You know, their relationship with Johnny Cash and guys like Cowboy Jack Clement and just their respect for the genre and the songwriting."

Bentley enlisted The Del McCoury Band and the Punch Brothers to record U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" for Up on the Ridge, his bluegrass-influenced album released in 2010.

"U2 is just a band that was perfect when they came out," Rucker said. "I just remember hearing Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, and I was just blown away. I couldn't believe that a band could sound that powerful on record. ... I just remember hearing that and going, 'This band's going to be the biggest band in the world.' There was no way there was going to be anything different. Their songwriting, for themselves, is perfect. It's one of the reasons I wanted to be in a band."

"I love U2," said Rimes. "I love Bono. I love everything about them. Their stage show is absolutely insane. I've always been so amazed by their hooks in their songs. It's so simple, but they have such a message behind them and they've always been so positive. They've always stood for something that was important to them."

Tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown each week at 11 a.m. ET/PT to check out the next star revealed on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice.

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