Lyrics Analysis of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2
It’s not unusual for artists, poets, and so-called modern-day prophets, to write or compose their lyrics drawing their inspiration from events which were probably past, or probably, present. U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday, is a song written by the band’s guitarist David Howell Evans, a.k.a. “The Edge,” in 1982 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_Bloody_Sunday_). As could be heard from the song itself, it decries war generally, but more specifically, it addresses the indiscriminate killings of the innocent civilians in 1972, when on January of that year, while certain Irish citizens were conducting a protest, provoked British soldiers fired heartlessly to this group of marchers killing thirteen. Historically speaking, there are two Sundays in the history of Ireland which are called “bloody.” Both have the same impressions in the minds of Irish people. The first one happened during a football competition in Dublin in 1920 where, suddenly, British soldiers started firing towards the crowd of football fans, killing aimlessly to avenge for the previous killing of British Secret Agents. Both “Bloody Sundays” were senseless killings. As has been known widely, civil war in Ireland was a longstanding war between Catholics and Protestants. The civil war has ensued during the years 1919-1921 when the population, divided by two strong religious affiliations, chose to make a stand whether to let Ireland become independent from Britain or not. Catholic people opted for freedom, whereas, the Protestants preferred to continue Ireland’s union with Britain. An so, this has sparked a civil war which has become longstanding, and which could be felt even until now. It seemed had become forever etched in the minds of the Irish people, as well as the British people (p 512 Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2003). When the band U2 was recording Sunday Bloody Sunday, they were aware of what might happen. They knew that the song could be misunderstood by the general public as “rebellious” in its tone. And so, it was a very risky undertaking they were venturing at the time. Nevertheless, as it turned out, the song has become one of their greatest songs, and one that has become their signature song. It was sung frequently during U2’s concerts. Crowds just love it.
But what was it that has attracted crowds and fans to this particular song? Probably, because people are fed up with war. This is not only true with the Irish people; it is also true with people almost around the world. Hence, when Bono and the U2 plays the song and the tune of Sunday Bloody Sunday, crowds seem to feel with them. The theme of the song as communicated through its lyrics is enhanced by the way it is conveyed through its melody and the effective employment of drums and guitars. The drumbeat sounds like beating to the march of an army. The guitars like machine guns unloading high caliber bullets, depicting afresh what has happened during that so-called “Bloody Sunday.” It is an emotionally charged song. To have a taste of it, one can just access the Internet and type “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2 in http://www.youtube.com and watch Bono and the U2 perform live. In one their concerts, upon ending the song, Bono even read the names of those who got killed in that fateful Sunday before their audience, and against the backdrop of the actual video of that doomed day for those unfortunate victims. Although Bono, over and over during concerts, would tell their crowds that they aren’t rebels and that the song is not a rebel song, the label stuck into the song nonetheless. Bono and the rest of the band would say that they don’t take sides. The song is non-partisan. It addresses war and brokers peace. It was sung by the band live at the very same site, in the Park where that Bloody Sunday referred to in the song took place in 1972 – at Croke Park Dublin, Ireland. It is important also to note that the song has taken fresh meanings as Northern Ireland’s conflict has continued in the 1980s and through 1990s. During these two decades, the Irish Republican Army - the IRA – continued their resistance against the presence of the British troops, and they would use any form of violence to achieve their aim of protest. One of another senseless violent protest occurred in 1987. It was November 8 when in a massacre (the Enniskillen massacre), thirteen people got killed when the IRA detonated a bomb. Again, these same happenings angered U2, and during their concerts, they would give highly emotionally charged performances. Thus, Sunday Bloody Sunday is indeed a strong cry against war and a song pleading for peace.
1.) Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2003.
2.) Date Accessed: October 30, 2008. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_Bloody_Sunday_(song)