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'Zombie' by The Cranberries - Song Analysis

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Tanya Vermaak

on 29 June 2014

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Transcript of 'Zombie' by The Cranberries - Song Analysis

Zombie - The Cranberries
Protest Song Analysis

My reading of 'Zombie'
At first, I understood the song to be about war in general and a child being separated from his family. In the first stanza, I understood that children were taken away for military purposes, however it actually refers to children dying and how the mourner’s “head hangs lowly” in sadness.

After learning the context of ‘Zombie’, I interpreted the song as a plea for peace from the Irish war, illustrating the anguish of those surrounded by conflict and violence in Northern Ireland. It is an angry and aggressive song, disapproving of the mindless violence seen in Irish history, especially after two young boys died as a result of the foolishness of the IRA.
My response to 'Zombie' and how it was shaped
My response was shaped by various poetic techniques as well as my context.

I am positioned to feel outraged at the entity of war and children “dying” for the sake of two countries who couldn’t negotiate peacefully. The figurative use of the word “zombie” suggests that war is immortal and that the soldiers blindly follow their own side because, like zombies, they have no self-control. This makes me disappointed that humans were carelessly claiming lives for no apparent reason. The ‘zombie’ or villain of war can be interpreted differently, depending on where you’re from and whose side you favour. I am neither Irish nor British; however I do favour the Republicans’ view because I disapprove of how the IRA mindlessly murdered so many people.

The repetition of “zombie” and “in your head” as well as the use of striking imagery in the song encourages me to feel frightened at the thought of violence. “Zombie” is a symbol for the ongoing violence in Northern Ireland, and that war in general is immortal and emotionless The use of “in your head” implies that war remains forever in thought and the memories will always be vivid. No-one can ever escape the fighting and suffering of war and this encourages me to feel deeply distressed.

The historical context of 'Zombie'
My thoughts on the issue being protested
‘Zombie’ is a powerful and interesting song that protests against war. Murdering innocent people, especially young children, is inhumane, and everyone is negatively affected by violence.
The artist and composer of 'Zombie'
Artist: The Cranberries
The Cranberries are an Irish rock band composed of 4 members from Limerick, Ireland. The band was founded in 1990 by brothers Noel and Mike Hogan and their drummer, Fergal Lawler. The Cranberries are no longer in the music industry.

'Zombie' was composed by Dolores O'Riordan (the second lead singer of The Cranberries). Dolores, born in 1971, is Irish and a former Catholic.
According to Dolores, ‘Zombie’ speaks about “the Irish fight for independence that seems to last forever”.

Another head hangs lowly,
Child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence.
Who are we mistaken?

But you see, it's not me, it's not my family.
In your head, in your head they are fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs,
And their bombs and their guns.
In your head, in your head, they are crying...

In your head, in your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie,
Hey, hey, hey.
What's in your head?
In your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie?
Hey, hey, hey, hey, oh, dou, dou, dou, dou, dou...

Another mother's breakin'
Heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence,
We must be mistaken.

It's the same old theme since nineteen-sixteen.
In your head, in your head they're still fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs,
And their bombs and their guns.
In your head, in your head, they are dying...

In your head, in your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie,
Hey, hey, hey. What's in your head,
In your head,
Zombie, zombie, zombie?
Hey, hey, hey, hey, oh, oh, oh,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, hey, oh, ya, ya-a...

Original Lyrics
'Zombie' - Music video

The song was written in memory of two boys, Jonathan Ball (aged 3) and Tim Parry (aged 12), who were killed in an IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire in March, 1993.
This protest song was deeply inspired by the second IRA bomb attack in Warrington, Cheshire in March 1993. Two innocent young boys died as a consequence, and dozens more were injured. This violent act was under the influence of 'The Troubles'.
'The Troubles' refers to a violent 30 conflict that began in 1968 and ended in 1998. Over 3,600 were killed and thousands more were injured.
The song also makes a direct reference to 1916 ("It's the same old theme since 1916").
The 1916 IRA Easter Uprisings
The No. 1 Single, 'Zombie' is from the album 'No Need to Argue'. The song and the music video was released in September 1994.
Annotated Song Lyrics
One of the flags flown over the General Post Office during the 1916 Easter Rising.
What happened in 1916?
The Easter Proclamation of 1916
‘Zombie’ objects the ongoing war and hatred between the two countries. The Cranberries produced this song with the intention of bringing peace among England and Ireland, as well as trying to persuade the audience that war has a negative impact for everyone involved.
I think the song conveys the idea that war is immortal; war happens every day and the battles and memories will always remain “in (humanity’s) head”. In the end, no-one is able to think for themselves, because we fear we are mindless.
IRA = Irish Republican Army
They were a terrorist militant group determined to remove British troops from Northern Ireland and rebel against British rule.
This later led to the Irish War of Independence, and the eventual independence for the Republic of Ireland.
It was the year of the IRA Easter uprisings in Dublin
15 leaders of the rebellion were executed
The Irish Republic was established
Who were the IRA?
The General Post Office, Dublin
The GPO was the nerve centre of the rebellion, serving as the rebels’ HQ and the seat of the provisional government which the IRA declared.
Towards the end of the video, through medium shot, we see young boys in pain and agony around the cross, referring to the two boys who died in the Warrington Bombing. The very last image is shown from a bird’s eye camera angle, looking over a young boy holding a gun. This suggests he is dead and all because of a stupid act of violence.
‘Zombie’ has developed my understanding of war and how deeply it can affect those involved. The song reinforces my understanding of war being a cycle.
'Zombie' is a very effective song to display the sorrow, pain and anger that was present in Ireland when the IRA held power. The song pay tribute to those who have died unnecessarily, especially the two young boys in 1993. Injustice and conflict still continues, but The Cranberries are proposing that terrorist organizations like the IRA can be defeated, and that violence isn’t always the answer.
The use of costume and make-up and colour allows the viewer to make clear distinctions between characters. Dolores is covered in gold make-up to represent a living, motherly figure who watches over the children. The children are painted silver to represent the mythological zombies. Dolores appears in front of a cross, surrounded by the children holding bow and arrows. The cross is significant as it represents the religious beliefs of the Catholics during the Easter Rising of 1916, and the sacrifices made during that time.
The video clip is suited to the music, widely using editing to show different images of British military patrolling the streets of Northern Ireland, and children playing with swords. This suggests that violence is a game to the children, and they are similar to the IRA by disregarding the impact that war has on others.
The image of the desensitized zombie is brought to mind through the blank faced onlooker at the start of the video clip. He is void of emotion and tries to escape the suffering, and this reinforces the idea that extensive violence causes people to become “zombies”.
The Music Video
The colours are limited to black, white, and gold. These are symbolic of war and violence. The scenes were the boys are playing and the soldiers are patrolling the streets are in black and white, but the scenes showing the after-effects of war (when they’re dead) are in colour. This suggests that, once someone is killed, they are free of the pain and suffering.
Why was this song written?
Full transcript