The Cranberries: Zombie Meaning
Covered By: Bad Wolves (2018)
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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...
anonymous Sep 1st, 2007 9:28pm report
This song is directly related the conflict between Ireland and england the reference to the easter rising of 1916 make this obvious however the song can also be seen to be about the horror`s of war.
The first line talks about the shame of killing a child the soldiers or mourners "head hangs lowly" as another child(which can represent innocence)is "slowly taken". The words "slowly taken" however could also be a reference to indoctrination and how children are taken in and made believe that they are fighting for justice even though that may not be true. "And the violence caused such silence" could mean that each side of the war committed such terrible atrocities that neither side were willing to negotiate and so the violence continued. The question "who are we mistaken?" asks if war and killing is ever right and says that its always a mistake to go to war no matter the circumstances.
The next part is a denial saying that neither her or her family have anything to do with the conflict and are trying to distance themselves from it but cannot escape because the memories of the events are implanted in her head she can never escape the fighting and the crying. We can see her make a further effort to distance herself from the war as she refers to the weapons as "With their tanks and their bombs, And their bombs and their guns"
"What's in your head?""zombie" could be a statement to the fighters asking what they were thinking when they were doing this or had they just turned into zombies unable to do anything but follow orders. This particular part of the song is screamed as to protest the war and mimic the cries of those who were being killed.
"Another mother's breakin',Heart is taking over" this line mimics the first in that the death of a child causes so much pain however the next line is slightly changed instead of asking if war is wrong like the first verse it is a statement this time "We must be mistaken".
The next line is what makes me believe that this song is about the conflict between Ireland and england "It's the same old theme since nineteen-sixteen" it seems to be a direct reference to the 1916 easter rising in which the I.R.B (Irish republican brotherhood later the I.R.A) captured a number of locations in Dublin most notably the G.P.O (general post office) in an effort to rebel against British rule in Ireland this caused a number of casualties and led to a huge rising in physical force nationalism within Ireland leading onto all the trouble that followed including the war of independence the civil war partition in the north(the 6 counties belonging to england) and the troubles in the north. all the death associated with these things fits in with the songs main idea of the horrors of war.The view that this song relates to WW1 is valid in that it's about the horrors of all war I would feel its more specifically about Ireland however.
The chorus repeats and I have already explained what I feel it means.
This is just my Interpretation of the song I respect other people`s views and would welcome some responses to what I have written thanks for reading and please excuse the spelling which I'm sure is awful haha.
This was inspired by the IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire in 1993. Two children, Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, were killed. The IRA (The Irish Republican Army) is a militant group determined to remove British troops from Northern Ireland.
Lead singer Dolores O'Riordan claimed that "Zombie" speaks about "The Irish fight for independence that seems to last forever." The lyrics even say, "It's the same old theme since 1916." Like the responsive works of Yeats, Heaney and U2, the Cranberries claim they wrote "Zombie" to be a "Song for peace, peace among England and Ireland." (thanks, Andrew - Seattle, WA, for above 2)
On August 31, 1994, just a few weeks after this song was released, the IRA declared a ceasefire after 25 years of conflict, leading some critics of The Cranberries to wonder if the IRA was willing to call a truce to make sure the group didn't release any more songs about them.
Thanks to "Songfacts" for this true meaning
Firstly, the lyrics have nothing to do with WW1, abortion or child abuse .... PLEASE!!!
The song chronicles the conflict in Ireland (the northern part) which has had no lasting resolution. I don't think that the writer was taking any particular viewpoint as the lyrics suggest "their tanks and their bombs" - referring to the Brits and Unionists and "their bombs and their guns" - referring to the Unionists and the Republicans alike. It is clear that the two concepts are separated due to the use of "bombs" twice. "What's in your head" is quite simply interpreted as wtf are you thinking (addressed to both sides I presume) for all the "dying" and "crying" that has resulted. That said, I'm sure the villain in these words would be interpreted differently depending on which side of the fence you are on. I know I shouldn't be commenting as I am South African and have not directly experienced the pain of the Irish but there is hope as our nation has witnessed.
anonymous Jan 12th, 1:37pm report
I think this song is doesn’t just point to the war in Ireland I think it points to all kinds of wars whether it be a war in America or some other country.
anonymous Nov 8th, 2018 11:09am report
If you watch The Cranberries-Zombie 1999 Live Video on You Tube- Dolores yells out (almost at the end of the video ) “we wrote this song 5 years ago hoping for peace of the North of Ireland —now things are looking better then ever -so let’s hope for Peace for Christmas” —-there you have it ☮️
anonymous Apr 16th, 2018 4:13pm report
I wrote the other day anonymously and was placed in 4th slot...thanks for that; much appreciated. I here use punctuation to show how I believe this incredible poem (O'Riordan is definitely a poet here) should read; hopefully this lends further insight and/or intepretation:
Zombie – Dolores Mary O’Riordan(The Cranberries) Zombie lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Another head-hangs-lowly child is slowly taken.
And, violence caused such silence; who are we mistaking?
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).
What's in your head, in your head, Zombie? – Zombie? – Zombie?
Another mother's breaking heart is taking over.
When (th’) violence causes silence, we must be mistaken.
It's the same old thing since 1916
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)
What's in your head, in your head, Zombie? (Zombie? – Zombie?)
- Dr. Jon M. Martin
anonymous Apr 13th, 2018 4:00am report
I believe the focus of Zombie is on the nature of those that commit war and/or violence against others.
"Another head hangs lowly child is slowly taken"
I believe is about the fact that those with low(er) self esteem are often elevated through gang or war type endeavors or roles. They are often abused or dysfunctional young, then are brought along into the gang thinking and bravado. I do not believe this is about shame of violence, but about the lack of self esteem vulnerability for recruits/recruiting.
"And the violence caused such silence, who are we mistaking?"
I believe that this is referring to those who knew such men and boys but would not speak of it or admit it openly to each other or themselves. Mistaking is a verb here....who are we "fooling"? Who are we seeing differently than they really are?
"But you see, its not me, its not my family"
Is the same denial just spoken of now openly and explicitly personified.
"In your head in your head they are fighting"
This either means that you know in the back of your mind that they are being violent, or it means that violence begins in the mind and mindset.
"In your head in your head they are crying"
This i believe implies that we wish in our minds that they knew better and felt and cared about what they are doing and were torn inside. Or it implies that they still have pain inside them that drives them to violence.
"In your head in your head, zombie, zombie, zombie"
Here various statements and questions are made. O'Riordan's statements here reiterate that it's all in the head, either a zombie not thinking or feeling or asking if perhaps they can indeed still think or feel....otherwise they are robots/zombies acting out violently.
anonymous Jan 16th, 2018 1:27pm report
This was written in response to the 1993 bombing of a shopping mall set up by two bombs designed to scare people into running into the 2nd bomb. The writer may have had some support for the IRA, but she is saying this time they have gone too far. She says anyone who thinks the war between N. Ireland and the South is still going on are Zombies and the was is all in their heads.
She talks directly about the event when she says a child is killed slowly, referring to the boy that was on life support for 5 days. She says "And the violence caused such silence, who are WE mistaken" and then later "when the violence causes silence, WE must be mistaken." Is this We in the rhetorical sense or is she showing soft support for the IRA? Either way she is pointing out that the action of the IRA is so shocking that they really need to question who their enemy really is. Is it England or the kids at a shopping mall?
Then she drives home the message that it's the same thing since 1916 but it is all in your head. There is really no fighting, it's an imagined war. Finally she asks rhetorically, what's in your head, or in other words wtf are you doing? Many think this is directed toward soldiers, but it's really directed toward anyone who would sponsor, order or carry out these acts of violence in the name of the IRA.
I always took the lyrics literally. That the Irish people living through this civil war of 80 years inoculated themselves from the pain of all the fighting by accepting it as part of their daily life, and walk around like zombies. And that when children die, it isn't THEIR children, so it doesn't really affect them. It is in their head.
anonymous Oct 4th, 2015 10:34pm report
If I'm not mistaken, in 1994 th IRA shot down some innocent children. The Cranberries were shocked by such violence and by the fact that violence caused silence - no one dared to protest. So only Dolores raised her voice to accuse the army in this song. "Zombie" means the soldiers who did such atrocities acted not like humans but like fighting machines. "The same old thing since 1916" refers to the beginning of the Urlster conflict. The band point out the conflict is really too long and that both sides need peace.
anonymous May 11th, 2015 5:15pm report
Have you guys ever seen the video? the idea they are talking about real zombies, in the video they directly show irish youth playing war and british soldiers, so no it's no about the Iraq war, its about how people including soldiers of a force that has no business being there [ like wanting to control a country just for the heck of it even though Ireland posed no real threat to them] I feel it spoke about the feeling England has had since old times of superiority over others
I come from Thailand where there is a healthy appreciation of zombies, ghosts and the undead and they adore this song so have a slight different interpretation.
When she sings 'with your tanks and your bombs and bombs and guns - in your head', you can interpret this as any form of delusional thinking is in fact simply in your head ergo we create our own versions of reality. The world is a blank slate and we create our own personal monsters emotions that festure in the nether regions between life and death which we can soothe my calming our minds. In some ways the message is very similar to Just by Radiohead.
anonymous Nov 4th, 2012 11:20am report
look folks you all tried tellin' the meaning with ur perspective of war....lets not stick here around war and the irland conditions and aftermath,,,,,,lets come and peek in to the mind of the cranberries....the song very clearly is talkin' about something in the head.....then she also says .....its not her neither her family....they were not affected by the war......yet their head has those memories ....and in your head zombie.....that means these memories are zombies.....she doesnt have neither her family has anything to do with that war....and then why she hears those screams and dyin' in head.....becoz these memories will not die and will come back like zombie....all those ppl who were killed have actually become a memory of pain and keep hauntin' us as a memory in the form of zombie .....still not dead.....becoz if u wanna look up for the real meaning of song u gotta know what a zombie is....it means something which is dead and again comes back to life.....zombies cant kill unless they have been killed......zombies have to come from somewhere and that can only be once they are dead....not that zombies are these ppl who are killin' .....how can the be dead ....unless they actually are....the song is a question that she has got nothing to do with that fuckin' war....then why she feels bad about it.....why do we feel bad about it.....whats in our head......this is a memory and those ppl killed have been hauntin' like some zombies who make us feel bad......they were killed ...innocent ppl so they make us feel bad ....and remind us what war can do.....this doesnt sound like a question to the killer ....this sounds more like a question to our own head that why we still have these memories .....are they some zombies.....who faced so much and now are haunting us in our head....?
anonymous Jun 12th, 2012 6:50am report
When I hear this song it kinda makes me think of war and the Holocaust. "and the violence, caused such silence" I feel like it talks about the horrors of the holocaust and WW2. It also makes me think of the civil war in ireland.
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