1972 — The Bloody Sunday incident takes place in Derry

On January 30, 1972, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association held a rally which marched through the Bogside area of Derry, in Northern Ireland. And that’s about the last detail that anyone agrees on for the next few hours.

Accounts of the size of the crowd vary from 300 to 30,000, and of its behaviour even moreso. The level of hostility by each side to the other is disputed, with each accusing the other of causing the events that followed.

What happened after that is not disputed. Members of the UK armed forces, primarily representing the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, opened fire on the march. 26 protestors were shot by police and military forces, half of those fatally (another died months later from injuries attributed to the shots). Two more were injured when hit by military vehicles.

Understandably, the event became known as Bloody Sunday.

Referenced in:
Sunday Bloody Sunday — U2

1968 – Martin Luther King is assassinated

Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, after years of non-violent struggle for civil rights. By 1967, he was moving on from that. While it remained an important part of his goals, he had also become a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and in 1967 established the Poor People’s Campaign – both of which reflected an approach to social justice that was increasingly based on class rather than race.

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as he stood on the balcony of his hotel. A single shot fired by James Earl Ray caused a remarkable amount of damage, and although King was raced to a nearby hospital by his friends, the doctors were unable to save him. His death led to riots in many American cities (other than Indianapolis, where Bobby Kennedy made one of the greatest speeches of his career, and found his plea for cooler heads heeded), and a national day of mourning was declared by the President.

Referenced in:
Pride – U2
They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson

1970 – John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” is released in the US

“Instant Karma” (also known as “We All Shine On”) was Lennon’s third solo single (that is, single as a non-Beatle – although George Harrison contributed electric guitar, piano and backing vocals), and the first to be a great success. It sold over a million copies in the US alone, and was a top ten hit in eleven different countries. It was also one of the quickest produced songs of all time, taking literally only ten days from recording to release (February 6 was its debut in the UK).

Like much of Lennon’s work, it is a vague hippie anthem, raising philosophical questions and radiating optimism – although not without its sly touches, such as the lines “Get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”. Two months later, Paul McCartney would announce the official end of the Beatles, but until them, “Instant Karma” would compete with “Let It Be” (the second last Beatles single) on the charts.

Referenced in:
God Pt II — U2

1988 — Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” is published

One of the most controversial celebrity biographies of its era, Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” was almost universally denounced as a hatchet job. Goldman alleged, among other things, that Lennon was manipulative, anti-Semitic, dyslexic and schizophrenic. Lennon was also, apparently, involved – in a highly negaitve way – in several suspicious deaths, including those of Stuart Suttcliffe and an unborn child of Yoko Ono (who he apparently caused the miscarry by kicking her in the stomach during an argument).

Lennon’s associates, friends and family were near unanimous in their condemnation of the book. Cynthia Lennon (his ex-wife) and Yoko Ono both denounced it – Ono even threatened a libel suit at one point. Paul McCartney advised people not to buy it when asked about it in interviews (and he was one of the few people treated well in its pages). Other Lennon biographers have largely dismissed the book, and many of those Goldman interviewed in researching it later claimed that their words were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented.

Referenced in:

God Pt II — U2

This date is approximate – I have been able to narrow it down no more precisely than “late August”, and have thus chosen the latest possible date in August.

1984 – Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” peaks on the charts

Acknowledged by a 2005 list as the 11th greatest Canadian song of all time, Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” contrasts the newly-formed love of a pair of teenagers with the dangers around them, notably the Cold War (which was a pretty dangerous thing in 1984, what with Ronald Reagan’s finger on the button) and the then-new spectre of AIDS.

It remains Cockburn’s single greatest hit in his native land, and has since been covered by Dan Fogelberg and Bare Naked Ladies, among others.

Referenced in:

God Pt II — U2

32 CE — Jesus heals the lepers

Jesus actually healed lepers on at least two separate occasions according to the gospels – and that’s assuming that the tale of him healing a single leper, related variously in Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-16, refers to the same leper on each occasion.

He also once healed a group of ten lepers in a single go: this one related only in Luke 17:11-19. Interestingly, the only one of the ten lepers to return and thank Jesus later was a Samaritan. (Luke’s gospel is also the only one to mention the Parable of the Good Samaritan; one cannot help suspecting that Luke may have had something of an agenda.)

Referenced in:

One — U2
Jesus — Queen
One — Johnny Cash

1920 – Bloody Sunday takes place in Dublin

One of the more infamous incidents in the long Irish struggle for independence, the day that would become known as Bloody Sunday. There were actually three separate incidents over the course of the day.

The first was an operation by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) led by Michael Collins, that killed twelve British agents/informers and two Auxiliaries. In response, that afternoon, British military forces opened fire on the crowd at a football match in Croke Park, killing fourteen civilians (all Irish, of course). Finally, that evening, three IRA prisoners in Dublin Castle were beaten and killed by their British captors – allegedly while trying to escape.

The day became something of a rallying cry for both sides – both of whom would go on to further atrocities in the course of their long struggle with each other, a struggle that still goes on.

Referenced in:

Sunday Bloody Sunday — U2

1960 – Khrushchev demands that Eisenhower apologise for U-2 spy flights

On May 1, American pilot Gary Powers was shot down while flying a Lockheed U-2 over the USSR on a covert surveillance mission, photographing military and other targets. Four days later, the American government released disinformation stating that Powers had gone missing and was presumed dead while flying over Northern Turkey. On May 7, Khrushchev released information demonstrating that the Americans had lied, causing a massive loss of face to the Eisenhower administration, and heightening Cold War tensions. Not only was Powers still alive, but his plain had been captured mostly intact. Indeed, the Soviets were even able to develop some of the photos Powers had taken.

This was unfortunate timing, to say the least, as the Four Powers summit in Paris was due to begin on May 14. Krushchev demanded an apology from the UNited States, and when Eisenhower proved recalcitrant, he walked out of the summit. Soviet-American relations deteriorated notably as a result of these incidents.

Powers was tried for espionage, pleaded guilty and was convicted on August 19, Although his sentence called for 3 years’ imprisonment and 7 years of hard labor, he served only one and three-quarter years of the sentence before returning to the West in a hostage swap deal.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

1981 – Solidarity continues protest actions in Poland

The independent trade union known in the west as Solidarity was formed on September 17, 1980. It was the successor of a number of previous protest and unionisation movements in Poland, and fittingly, one of its first major acheivements was the recognition of its predecessors with the creation of the Momument to the Fallen Shipyards Workers 1970, unveiled on December 16, 1980.

Across that winter, Solidarity continued various protest actions, notably meeting with a delegation from the Vatican on January 15 of 1981. As the organisation evolved, it became something greater than just a trade union: it became a fully-fledged movement for social, political and economic revolution. Increasingly, it was led by the charismatic Lech Walesa, who became an inspirational figure to progressives the world over.

Solidarity eventually acheived its goals with the overthrow of the Communist regime in Poland in 1989. Its subsequent transition to becoming a political party has been a rocky and rather less successful one.

Referenced in:
New Year’s Day – U2