In 1994, Dolores O’Riordan helped introduce a new generation of young people to the power of protest with “Zombie,” the lead single from Irish band the Cranberries’ second album, No Need to Argue.
The lead singer-songwriter and guitarist was inspired to write the song in memory of two children, Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, who were killed in the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, England. The lyrics are contemptuous, not just of the attackers but of the complicity of all of us. O’Riordan holds herself to account as well: “Another mother's breaking/ heart is taking over/ when the violence causes silence/ we must be mistaken.”
Vocally, O’Riordan doesn’t shy away from her anger; instead, she spits and snarls, forcing the listener to linger in the harshness of her drawn-out syllables, tension in the strange cadence of her deliberate enunciation. There’s also the powerful repetition of “zombie,” a word that literally means a soulless corpse, and the marked contrast of the complex emotional hurricane of O’Riordan’s voice as she growled it over and over.
O’Riordan’s gift wasn’t simply a matter of a great voice, musicianship or lyrics; it was in the relationship between the three, and how crucially each component informed another. Lots of songs make us feel things, but O’Riordan’s gift was also in her strength, and the open-hearted wonder of how her music lives on.
In the wake of the tragic news of O’Riordan’s death today at the age of just 46, CBC Music pays tribute to the musician’s remarkable artistry, and the legacy that she leaves behind with some of O’Riordan’s most powerful lyrics and performances.
"Oh my life, is changing everyday,
In every possible way,
And oh my dreams, it's never quite as it seems."
"You're so pretty the way you are,
And you have no reason,
To be so insolent to me,
You're so pretty the way you are."
"But I'm in so deep,
You know I'm such a fool for you.
You've got me wrapped around your finger,
Do you have to let it linger?"
'When You're Gone'
"And in the day,
There's nothing simple,
When I'm not around you."
"Maybe we should burn the house down,
Have ourselves another fight,
Leave the cobwebs in the closet,
'Cause tearing them out is just not right."
'Ode to My Family'
"Understand what I've become,
It wasn't my design.
And people everywhere think,
Something better than I am."
"I've got a picture in my room, in my room,
I will return there I presume, it should be soon.
The greatest irony of all, shoot the wall,
It's not so glamorous at all, all, all, all."
"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."
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