Zombie is the most famous composition of the Irish group The Cranberries, familiar even to those who do not consider themselves a fan of Dolores O’Riordan’s work. Even without listening to the lyrics, it is easy to guess that the song is dedicated to some tragic event. About the sad story that inspired Dolores to create this song, I will tell you in this article.
The historical meaning of the song The Cranberries — Zombie
The Zombie song is dedicated to the protracted armed confrontation between England and Ireland, or rather, one of its incidents – the terrorist attack that took place in 1993 in the English city of Warrington. A bomb planted by militants of the Irish Republican Army exploded, and two children, Jonathan Ball and Tim Perry, were among the dead. Dolores O’Riordan saw on the news the mother of one of the dead boys, a heartbroken, unfortunate woman. It was then that the song Zombie was born. Dolores sings about the death of children and the broken hearts of mothers, perpetuating this and other tragedies in which innocent civilians suffered.
Frame from the clip: Irish children jump on the roofs of destroyed buildings
It’s the same old theme since 1916 This line refers us to the historical events that preceded the attack. Ireland’s struggle for independence from Great Britain began in 1916 (Easter Rising). Three years later, the country managed to achieve independence, but hostilities did not stop. It must be said that Dolores was touched by this incident not at all because the Irish were involved in it. The singer said that she was not at all concerned about the political side of the event: she was outraged that someone dares to decide who lives and who dies; that someone is trying to solve their problems by killing innocent people.
The meaning of the central metaphor is zombies
The central image of the song is zombies. Dolores uses this word for all murderers, terrorists, not just members of the Irish Republican Army. According to the singer, these people are just as brainless, they obey an abstract idea, belief, they live in yesterday. They do not understand that their victims are the most ordinary people who have families and children. They are trying to achieve justice, but they do it with brutal methods. Therefore, they are zombies – living corpses-killers, blindly obeying the tenets of their beliefs.
The meaning of the song The Cranberries – Zombie – is an attempt to look into the head of such a zombie killer. What’s in your head, zombie? (“What’s on your mind, zombie?” Dolores asks. And then he answers his own question. It’s not me, it’s not my family in your head (“It’s not me, not my family in your head”) – the zombie is not aware of who his victim really is. In your head they are fighting whith their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns tanks”, “guns” intensifies the atmosphere of destruction and murder. This is exactly what goes on in the minds of terrorists – continuous explosions and deaths of those whom they consider their enemies.
Silver-painted children look very unhappy
Finally, I will say a few words about the video. It uses real footage from the military chronicle – the shooting of British soldiers in Ulster and moments from the life of local children. But the band members also wanted to express a more general idea in the video, not to tie it only to the struggle of Ireland and Great Britain. They did this with a series of shots of Dolores and young children. Dolores’s body is covered in gold, and the bodies of the boys are covered in silver, and the play of these precious colors symbolizes abstract beauty – something that many would like to see around. But shots from Ireland create a sharp contrast to the gilded life – here it is, the real thing, what we don’t want to see. When the violence causes silence, we must be mistaken (“If violence gives rise to silence, we seem to be mistaken”), sums up Dolores.
I must say that the call of The Cranberries was heard. Shortly after the release of Zombie’s song, the Irish Republican Army announced a cessation of hostilities. Of course, it is unlikely that the militants were imbued with the lyrics of Dolores O’Riordan, but if at least one of those whom the singer called “zombies” changed his mind after hearing this song, it means that the world has become a little less evil.