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Zombie: How The Cranberries' Song Captured The Pain And Anger Of The Troubles

Zombie: The Story Behind The Cranberries' Iconic Protest Song

Zombie is a protest song by Irish alternative rock band The Cranberries, written by the band's lead singer Dolores O'Riordan about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was released on 19 September 1994 as the lead single from their second studio album, No Need to Argue (1994), two weeks ahead of the album's release.

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The song is widely considered to be one of the most famous protest songs of all time. Its lyrics are primarily about the infamous Warrington bombings and the innocent victims it left behind. Its music is a radical departure from the band's previous style, featuring heavy guitars, drums, and distortion. Its video is a striking combination of documentary footage, symbolic imagery, and emotional performance.

In this article, we will explore the story behind Zombie, from its inspiration to its creation, from its reception to its legacy. We will discover how this song came to be, what it means, and why it matters.

The Inspiration Behind Zombie

The genesis of Zombie can be traced back to March 20, 1993, when two bombs, planted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), exploded in the northern English town of Warrington. The blast from the second bomb injured dozens of people, but most cruelly claimed the lives of three-year-old Jonathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry: a twin tragedy that shocked and appalled both the UK and Irish public.

The IRA was a militant group that waged an armed campaign to end British rule in Northern Ireland and unite the region with the Republic of Ireland; during the campaign, Republican and Unionist paramilitaries killed thousands of people. The conflict, known as The Troubles, lasted from the late 1960s until 1998.

O'Riordan was deeply affected by the tragedy, as she was touring in England at the time and felt a personal connection as an Irish artist and a mother. She decided to write a song that reflected upon the event and expressed her anger and sadness at the senseless violence.

She told Songfacts in 2017:

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"I remember being on tour and being in England at that time when it happened... And I remember being really sad about it all... These bombs are going off in random places... It could have been anyone... You know? It's a waste of human life... And I wanted to put that into words and into music."

The song's title and chorus are inspired by the zombie-like state of mind that the violence creates in the people involved. O'Riordan explained:

"The IRA are not me. I'm not the IRA. The Cranberries are not the IRA. My family are not. When it says in the song, 'It's not me, it's not my family,' that's what I'm saying. It's not Ireland, it's some idiots living in the past... I don't care whether it's Protestant or Catholic, I care about the fact that innocent people are being harmed. That's what provoked me to write the song."

The Creation of Zombie

O'Riordan wrote Zombie on an acoustic guitar in her apartment in Limerick, Ireland, in 1993. She brought the song to the band, which consisted of her, guitarist Noel Hogan, bassist Mike Hogan, and drummer Fergal Lawler. The band was initially surprised by the song's heavy and dark tone, as they were known for their softer and more melodic sound.

The band recorded Zombie at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin with producer Stephen Street, who had worked with them on their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (1993). Street helped the band to achieve a more powerful and dynamic sound, using distortion pedals, feedback loops, and double tracking techniques. He also encouraged O'Riordan to sing with more force and emotion, resulting in her signature yodeling style.

The band filmed the video for Zombie in Belfast and London with director Samuel Bayer, who had previously directed Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991). The video features footage of O'Riordan singing in front of a giant cross with children playing war games around her, interspersed with clips of British soldiers and Irish protesters during The Troubles. The video also shows the band performing in a dimly lit studio with gold-painted bodies.

The video was meant to convey the contrast between the innocence of childhood and the horror of war, as well as the hope for peace and reconciliation. O'Riordan said:

"The video is very symbolic... The kids are supposed to be playing war games... They're supposed to be having fun... But they're actually hurting each other... And then there's me singing in front of this cross... Which is like a symbol of hope... And then there's the band playing in this dark room... Which is like a symbol of anger... And then there's the gold paint... Which is like a symbol of wealth and greed... And how that can corrupt people and make them do terrible things."

The Reception of Zombie

Zombie was a huge commercial success for The Cranberries. It became their first and only No. 1 single on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, as well as reaching No. 1 in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. It also peaked at No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 22 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Zombie was also a critical success for The Cranberries. It received positive reviews from music critics, who praised its boldness, intensity, and relevance. Rolling Stone called it "a scathing indictment of violence" and "a stunning departure from their previous work". Entertainment Weekly described it as "a searing rocker" and "a passionate plea for peace". Spin magazine named it one of the best songs of 1994.

Zombie won several awards and honors for The Cranberries. It won the Best Song Award at the 1995 MTV Europe Music Awards, beating out Michael Jackson's You Are Not Alone and U2's Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. It also received nominations for Best Alternative Video and Best International Group Video at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. In 2018, it became the first song by an Irish band to surpass one billion views on YouTube. The Legacy of Zombie

Zombie has left a lasting impact on the music world and beyond. It has been covered by numerous artists across genres and generations, such as Bad Wolves, Clödie, and Boyce Avenue. Some of these covers have been dedicated to O'Riordan, who died unexpectedly on January 15, 2018, at the age of 46.

Zombie has also remained a timeless anthem for peace and justice in a world plagued by violence and war. It has been used as a soundtrack for various social movements and causes, such as the Black Lives Matter protests, the Syrian civil war, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also been cited as an inspiration for other protest songs, such as Green Day's Wake Me Up When September Ends (2004) and U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983).

Zombie represents O'Riordan's artistic vision and legacy, especially after her death. It showcases her unique voice, her poetic lyrics, and her courageous spirit. It also reflects her love for her homeland, her compassion for humanity, and her hope for a better future. As she said in an interview with Vox in 2017:

"I think music is so powerful. It can change people's minds. It can change people's hearts. It can change the world."


Zombie is more than just a song. It is a statement, a story, and a symbol. It is a statement against violence and injustice. It is a story of tragedy and grief. It is a symbol of hope and healing.

Zombie is one of the most iconic protest songs of all time. It is also one of the most personal and powerful songs by The Cranberries. It is a testament to their musical talent, their social conscience, and their emotional depth.

If you have not listened to Zombie yet, we urge you to do so. You will not regret it. You will be moved by its message, its sound, and its spirit.

And if you have listened to Zombie before, we invite you to listen to it again. You will discover something new, something meaningful, and something relevant.

Zombie is a song that deserves to be heard, understood, and appreciated. It is a song that speaks to us all.


  • What is Zombie about?

  • Zombie is a protest song by The Cranberries about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, especially the Warrington bombings that killed two children in 1993.

  • Who wrote Zombie?

Zombie was written b


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