Northern Ireland was present too often in the chronicles of the last century, a period where violence raged in the streets and clashes between Protestants and Catholics let civilians live in fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On March 20th, 1993, Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball, three and twelve years old, were killed by a bomb placed by IRA in Warrington, Northern England, and dozens of other persons were injured by the explosion. The bloodbath and the involvement of two children shook the minds of British citizens, who once again had to count the innocent victims of a seemingly endless clash: Dolores O’Riordan was among them.
The voice of The Cranberries, at that time engaged in a tour in England, was shocked and the emotion of the moment made her grab the guitar and write some verses, without thinking about how difficult such a topic could be: this is the birth of Zombie, one of the symbols of 90s rock and the anthem of the Irish group.
Another head hangs lowly
Child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaking?
Other artists before her had addressed the Northern Irish issue and its tragic events (among others John Lennon, Paul McCartney, U2, Simple Minds, The Police), focusing mainly on the famous and infamous Bloody Sunday, which in 1973 represented the violence peak between the various factions involved in the conflict. Zombie became O’Riordan’s protest song against a situation that was already out of control. The shock forced her to go beyond the opposition between Protestants and Catholics, focusing on the death of two innocent children.
With their tanks and their bombs
And their bombs and their guns
In your head in your head they are crying
Released in September 1994 (a couple of weeks after the historic ceasefire) on No Need To Argue, Zombie raised the status of The Cranberries beyond any prediction, also thanks to the video directed by Samuel Bayer (Nirvana, Blind Melon). The videoclip showed glimpses of life on the streets of Northern Ireland, mixing little boys, passersby and soldiers, with The Cranberries overlapping in the images: the moments when O’Riordan, covered with gold, appears under a cross on children’s side (to remember Tim and Jonathan) turned the video into one of the most iconic of all time.
This protest song is the aggressive and angry response to the passive acceptation of what was happening by part of the Irish population, which at some point started to use the indifference, just like the lifeless beings mentioned in the song title. The Northern Irish conflict will begin the long and difficult path of peace only in 1998 and the two main promoters, John Hume and David Trimble, will win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in that year: the ones playing during the award ceremony were just The Cranberries.
Dolores O’Riordan died in January 15th, 2018, but the breath of his most famous song hasn’t stopped yet feeding the rock fire.
What’s in your head?
In your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie