Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How Long Must We Song This Song

                             Father Daly tries to help carry victim Jack Duddy's body to safety on January 30, 1972

All not blinded by your smoke,
Photographers who caught your stroke,
The priests that blessed our bodies, spoke
And wagged our blood in the world's face.
The truth will out, to your disgrace.

Excerpt from Butcher's Dozen: A Life Lesson for the Octave of Widgery   ~Thomas Kinsella

Many of you have heard U2's famous song, Sunday Bloody Sunday. Some of you maybe have seen one of my favorite versions in the Rattle and Hum movie. But what is this song about and why has it inspired so many songs about it?
Because this isn't a blog about history, I will refrain from an in depth Irish history lesson.  
Over the centuries, sectarianism fueled the fighting. Religion, land, Irish, English, Green, and Orange, you name it, they've fought over and because of it.
There were indeed two incidents referred to as Bloody Sunday in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The first was an incident that occurred in 1920  during the time of the Irish War of Independence in Dublin's Croke Park.  Thirty one were killed during an attack at a  Gaelic Football match.
The day that most of these songs and movies refer to is January 30, 1972. The event was a Civil Rights March in Derry pioneered by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in the late 60's and early 70's was inspired by the American civil rights movement. The movement was to counter any violence and to bring about change in the mistreatment and discrimination of Catholics. As time went on and the marches and their popularity grew, the British disdain for the marches did as well and the marches were banned outright.
Thinking they would be faced with blocked roads, marches proceeded but with increasingly violent and tragic outcomes. By 1972, the anger and frustration was capped by the introduction of internment without trial. Violence and death escalated throughout the North. All sides of the conflict suffered deaths as a result. The marchers saw this as an opportunity to peacefully protest internment. The march was allowed to occur in the Catholic area of Derry despite the ban. At the end of the day, thirteen would be dead and fourteen others shot by the Royal Parachute Regiment. None of the victims had weapons on them.
Below is the trailer for the film Bloody Sunday by Paul Greengrass.

 Immediately questions about what exactly happened about that day. I know people who were there, who stood initially confused and then horrified when they realized what was happening. They're vivid descriptions are akin to those I've spoken to who witnessed the National Guard shooting at Kent State.
The civil rights movement never recovered.
What happened was an outpouring of anger and the arts community was among those who protested via performance. Paul McCartney immediately recorded Give Ireland Back to the Irish; The Luck of the Irish by John Lennon portrayed the sad state of being Irish in Northern Ireland under British rule; and Minds Locked Shut by Christy Moore pays tribute to those lost. Many other songwriters, story tellers and movie makers have since written about the events of January 30, 1972.
Probably the most famous song about Bloody Sunday was not recorded until 1983: U2's version of Sunday Bloody Sunday It is, as Bono famously says, "not a rebel Ssng". Bono, who is a product of a Anglican mother and Catholic father, wrote the song which more reminiscent of the civil rights marchers point of view. He even professes his own inability to chose sides in the Troubles because of his parent's religion
Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

 While the album and live at Red Rocks version are memorable, it would be Bono's version of Sunday Bloody Sunday sung at Nichols Arena, Denver Colorado on November 8, 1987, that would capture his desperate plea for peace. On this day, eleven were killed in a bombing in Enniskillen. His passion , anger, and outright disgust of the event are evident.

 So this next song IS a rebel song. While many call for peace, Eire Og is a band that calls for remembrance and a call to arms. While Bono cries no more, they cry we're ready to continue the battle.

It is forty-two years later, and peace is still a fragile bubble that hangs in the air. The families of these fourteen still wait for answers from the government, whom they feel is solely responsible for the deaths that day. These songs pay tribute in their own way to those killed. So when you hear those first guitar chords from the Edge, take a moment to remember who this song is about:
Patrick ('Paddy') Doherty
Gerald Donaghey
John ('Jackie') Duddy
Hugh Gilmour 
Michael Kelly 
Michael McDaid 
Kevin McElhinney
Bernard ('Barney') McGuigan 
Gerald McKinney 
William ('Willie') McKinney 
William Nash
James ('Jim') Wray
John Young
John Johnston
Bloody Sunday Remembrance March Bay Ridge Brooklyn

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