On Jan. 30 1970, British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of Irish Catholics protesting internment without trial of suspected Irish Republican Army members. 26 people were shot, all of them unarmed. Of the 26 shot, 14 died. Many victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers, some were shot while trying to help the wounded.
13 years later, U2, a four-man band from Dublin, released “Sunday Bloody Sunday” a condemnation of widespread violence in Northern Ireland.
U2 painted scenes of violence through their lyrics.
Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end streetU2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
References to the use of Molotov cocktails in streets where children play and corpses backed up into a corner encapsulate the decades of violence in Northern Ireland which claimed more than 3,000 lives. Children are supposed to be innocent and not caught in the middle of murder and violence from adults. By describing the conflict’s impact on children, U2 shows the consequences to the most innocent.
The events of Bloody Sunday would become a rallying cry for Irish nationalist groups, however, the song was not a rallying cry for either side of the conflict.
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wallU2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
“This is not a Rebel song” Bono, the lead singer of the band said before a live performance of the song. Instead, the song was a condemnation of the unnecessary violence throughout Northern Ireland. By comparing “taking a side” in the conflict to putting your back up against the wall, U2 uses metaphor to describe the futility of becoming a foot-soldier in a tit-for-tat game of murder.
A central focus of the conflict were disputes between Catholics and Protestants, U2 mentions the conflict and the uselessness of violence surrounding the religious conflict.
The real battle just begun
To claim the victory Jesus won
Sunday, Bloody SundayU2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday
By stating the paradox of killing for a victory that has already occurred, U2 exposes the worthlessness of religious violence.
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” takes a neutral stand and displays the consequences of violence. Through metaphor, imagery, and paradox, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” inspired a movement towards peace in Northern Ireland.
2 thoughts on “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
This song has always spoken quite powerfully to me. I’m not sure why this specific analysis of the song seems so interesting, perhaps reading quotes from Bono himself, but you’re absolutely right to say this song is a poem. Aside from the gutwrenching lyrics, the ebbs, and flows of the song’s melody, the moments of quiet solitude, and furious rally cries create a painful and transcendent understanding of how profoundly inhumane we have grown to be.
I haven’t heard of this song, previously before for listening to it and reading your blog post, but I think a big takeaway here is that music is a powerful tool. U2 didn’t know his song was going to spark a nationwide peace movement to mend the bridges broken 40 years ago, but he did. To Americans, this song doesn’t seem like much because it’s not about us but to the Northern Irelands, this song really sat with them and placed them back into the year 1970 to see the bloody mess violence has caused them. It created such clean imagery with the use of poetic devices that it sparked change.