By Brian Ives
Over the course of four-plus seasons, ‘The Walking Dead’ has used a wide range of music from artists that span nearly every genre and era including Bob Dylan, Motörhead, the Stanley Brothers, Sharon Van Etten, Wang Chung and Tom Waits, whose song “Hold On” was sung by cast member Emily Kinney. During the show’s fifth season, we’ll be talking with Thomas Golubic of SuperMusicVision, who helps choose the show’s music, to get the scoop on what you heard last night.
Just when you think The Walking Dead may have run out of ways to horrify and shock you, during the mid-season premiere on Sunday (Feb. 8)—yes, the same night as the GRAMMYs—the show creators proved they can still come up with new, awful scenarios, all while breaking your heart.
By now you’ve probably seen the episode, but suffice to say, spoilers ahead.
If you’re still with us, you know that on Sunday’s episode, we said goodbye to Tyreese, played by Chad Coleman. It was one of those devastating moments (and there have been many) when we lose someone who isn’t just a character, but a moral compass of the show, one of its beating hearts. And we’re left wondering: what will it mean for our heroes? And, really, what does anything mean anymore?
Before they even learned of Tyreese’s fate, the other members of the “away team,” Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Glenn (Steven Yeun), were having a crisis of faith amongst themselves, still reeling (as we all are) of the death of Beth (Emily Kinney) in the mid-season finale.
But we saw Beth, along with some old departed friends and enemies, via Tyreese’s fever dreams. And that brought one of the sweet moments of the show: Beth playing acoustic guitar and singing reggae legend Jimmy Cliff‘s “Strugglin’ Man.”
SuperMusicVision’s Thomas Golubic spoke with Radio.com about using the reggae classic.
“We see the Jimmy Cliff song ‘Struggling Man’ as working for the sequence for a few reasons,” Golubic said. “First, we believe it’s the sort of song that Beth would learn how to play on guitar. It’s a simple G-A-D chord structure, and a wistful easy-going reggae tune we believe she would perform.
“Second, we see it as a song Tyreese would have responded to, had he heard Beth sing it at some point. The lyrics speak to all of our character’s circumstances: ‘Together we struggle by the will to survive, together we fight just to stay alive.’ In the post-apocalyptic context, the song has added resonance.”
He adds: “Losing Tyreese is one of the most heartfelt losses in the series, especially just after losing Beth. The group are reeling now from this latest tragedy and really struggling for basic survival. But we loved how this very unusual and very emotional episode came together. Chad Coleman’s performance was an inspiration to everyone. Tyreese will be sorely missed.”
Bonus bit of trivia: the voice heard on the radio broadcast (in Tyreese’s mind)? That would be Andrew Lincoln himself. It was in his normal British accent, as Lincoln hails from England.