Whilst I can claim no personal knowledge of “The Troubles”, as the violence in Northern Ireland became known. I do remember as a teenager of the 80’s, countless bomb threats in schools and buildings across England. The most profound being the detonation of a 1500kg truck bomb in the centre of my home city Manchester.

Bands such as U2 released Sunday Bloody Sunday, frustrated at what they saw as the pointless course of fighting. Likewise Irish band The Cranberries released a song in September 1994, written after learning of the death of Warrington children, three year old Johnathan Ball and twelve year old Tim Parry in March 1993.

Zombie went on to be probably the Cranberries best known song.

This video has been viewed 1.2 Billion times on Youtube.

“This song’s our cry against man’s inhumanity to man; and man’s inhumanity to child.” – Dolores O’Riordan.

The song features a thumping base line to instil thoughts of war. Dolores O’Riodan provides the lilting mezzo-soprano voice, signature yodel, emphasised use of keening all with her strong Limerick accent.

Keening is an interesting vocal style that is rarely used in popular music but seems appropriate. “Keening was a vocal ritual artform, performed at the wake or graveside in mourning of the dead. Keens are said to have contained raw unearthly emotion, spontaneous word, repeated motifs, crying and elements of song. The word keening originates from the Gaelic caoineadh meaning “crying”.” (source)

“At the time Zombie was written, we were touring in the UK. It was before the peace treaty and there had been a lot of trouble. There were a lot of bombs going off in London and I remember this one time a child was killed when a bomb was put in a rubbish bin – that’s why there’s that line in the song, ‘A child is slowly taken’.

“We were on a tour bus and I was near the location where it happened, so it really struck me hard – I was quite young, but I remember being devastated about the innocent children being pulled into that kind of thing. So I suppose that’s why I was saying, ‘It’s not me’ – that even though I’m Irish it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it. Because being Irish, it was quite hard, especially in the UK when there was so much tension. It’s so different now. If you told a teenager now what it was like back then they wouldn’t believe you, but it wasn’t such a long time ago.


The song has a strong message about the futility of war. It reminds me of the scene from Troy. Achilles is highly frustrated with Agamemnon and the other kings celebrating the day’s victory in battle, which none of them actually fought in. He is counselled with these words by Odysseus. “You know what war is all about – War is old men talking and young men fighting. You know this. Ignore the politics.” Achilles continues to fight to protect his country, is honoured by his peers, but struggles with his inner conflict of what is it all for.

Every War that ends regardless of how bloody, is concluded with men sitting around a table and deciding enough is enough. Perhaps as Humans we need to learn to skip to this end point and save the suffering of millions of people.


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-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh

Do, do, do, do
Do, do, do, do
Do, do, do, do
Do, do, do, do

Another mother’s breaking
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-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh, ay, oh, ya ya

Dolores Mary O’Riordan

During Covid Lockdown TIkTok influencer Scott Berends started a trend of people recording the song in sign language, which no doubt further increased its fame and reach with a new age of audience.

We cannot become Zombies, to the suffering of others.

RJR Daydreamer-


  1. If it were old women talking and young women fighting how different it would be : what woman wants to lose her child, her home, her country?


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