At the center of the Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics special exhibit currently showing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, is U2 and its long-standing interest in using the power of rock to change the world. The exhibit greets visitors with a video of Bono talking about his motivation for writing U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky,” one of the band’s famously powerful songs to speak up out of personal passion against a big, troubling political situation that affects whole nations.
But that clip is taken from a longer interview Bono did for the project, nearly all of which is not being shown in the exhibit. As an exclusive for atu2.com, the Rock Hall has kindly provided us with a new clip from the interview, which is first available only here. As Bono discusses “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” another one of U2’s big protest songs, he recalls his childhood and the socio-cultural tensions he lived with that would later inform not just the song’s lyrics, but U2’s career-long campaign for nonviolent resolutions of conflict.
Bono shares about growing up with his father’s influence of distrusting violent responses to British rule in Northern Ireland, which must have informed his approach when he decided to write lyrics about an idea he calls “a bit of a trip … audacious at the very least” and as having “one original thought.” That is, to contrast the nonviolent Christian Easter Sunday of the resurrection with the violence of both the Easter Uprising of 1916, in which Ireland revolted against British rule, and the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland, when unarmed protesters against British rule were killed by British paratroopers. U2’s song has had an influential but complex history since it was released on the 1983 War album, and Bono explains that history in this clip too, even noting how U2 reworked it to feature on U2’s Innocence + Experience tour setlist.
The song’s long performance history testifies to its durability. Another testament to the power, success and continued relevance of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is it’s the subject of academic study in Brian Johnston’s recent article “Haunted Spaces: An Examination of Alternative Memorialization Practices via Live Performances of U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,'” published in the fall 2015 volume of the Journal of Communications Media Studies. Johnston, who teaches courses in communication, media and culture at Indiana State University, wrote here about his initial idea for the article and his process of getting it published, and explains that performing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” has become a great example of how U2 does “memorial art … to educate, empower, and eulogize.”
The Louder Than Words exhibit runs for a few more months in Cleveland at the Rock Hall, and will then move to reopen in Washington, D.C., at the Newseum. You can see the exhibit with a lot of U2 fans at the Rock Hall as part of the #U240 Cleveland celebration on Sept. 24-25, 2016, and hear a special panel talk that weekend on U2’s role in promoting nonviolent solutions in the history of rock ‘n’ roll benefit concerts. atu2.com is proud to partner with the Rock Hall to host the only major gathering of fans in the U.S. for celebrating U2’s 40th anniversary. More details on the weekend’s activities are here.