As a teenager, the powerful vocals of Dolores O’Riordan, the strong guitar riffs from Noel Hogan and Mike Hogan, and the commanding drum beat of Fergal Lawler had a massive positive impact on me. The year was 1994, and the song was “Zombie,” the Cranberries’ greatest hit song.
The tune appealed to me because it was loud and fast, and the music video (this was eons ago, during a prehistorical time when MTV was actually about music and played music videos) was about as striking as possible.
The video’s imagery taught me about The Troubles, the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Easter Rebellion of 1916 and the catastrophic terrorism that engulfed Ireland and the United Kingdom for most of the 20th century.
Like R.E.M.’s “Orange Crush,” here was a hard rock song that you could also appreciate on a second, much deeper level. “Orange Crush,” written and sung by the offspring of a Vietnam veteran, is a song about the lethal Monsanto chemical agent orange, and its deadly effects on our military.
Zombie was inspired by O’Riordan’s reaction to an early ‘90s I.R.A. bombing that claimed the lives of innocent children. The full story of the tragedy, and how it inspired the song can be found at this link.
When the shocking news broke on Monday- Dolores O’Riordan had passed away at the tender age of 46 in a London recording studio, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow. The front woman from, in my opinion, one of the most impactful alt-rock bands of the 1990s was gone, and none of us knew why. We won’t likely know any time soon, if ever, as the family is keeping the cause of death under wraps.
As we’re dealing with a rock star here, anything is possible.
I once met O’Riordan and the Cranberries, in 1997 when I worked backstage security during the summers at the concert venue in suburban Tinley Park that keeps changing its name every season. She was a nice, sweet woman, very grounded despite her rock star status.
Well below five feet tall and certainly much less than 100 pounds, her tiny physical stature was in sharp contrast to the booming, high impact vocals of which she was capable.
My interest in The Troubles, Sinn Fein, the Irish Revolution and all topics related to these historical events began with Zombie, but continues on to this day.
Zombie’s discomforting images of children holding guns got it banned by the BBC, and censored by the RTE (Ireland’s BBC), yet it somehow remains the 210th most viewed video on YouTube to this day.
That’s almost top 200 of all videos all time, period; including videos of cats knocking objects off tables.
In 2016 my trip to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the northernmost provinces of the United Kingdom coincided with the centenary of The Easter Rebellion, also known as The Easter Rising or simply The Rising.
How fortunate I was to be there at that time, and to have the opportunity to visit Belfast as well.
In that city, one that’s divided like Berlin was during the cold war, I took The Troubles tour, and saw the same kind of street, wall and building murals that were depicted in “Zombie.”
At the Peacewall, a name that’s definitive of Orwellian doublespeak, a bottle was thrown at our group.
Of course, I still wonder to this day if that was staged, because as the tour began, the drivers and guides tried very hard to sell us on the fact that what we were going to see was extremely dangerous and disturbing; in the same manner that every Haunted House tells you it’s the scariest of all time, and every roller coaster bills itself as the fastest and highest of all time.
Still, on a trip that included a twitter fight with the National Leprechaun Museum (I’m not joking) and a soccer game in which I was forced to evacuate due to a bomb scare, I couldn’t help but feel some tension and unease.
I was also reading the New Yorker article “Where the bodies are buried” at the time, an enthralling and informative piece which I highly recommend should you wish to further your education on topic of The Troubles. Being immersed in this imagery, you can’t stop your mind from wandering to “the disappeared.”
On the Belfast tour I learned that there are actually cemeteries where they built walls below the ground, yes BELOW the ground, to separate Unionist from Republican, Protestant from Catholic.
Given the fact that numerous people have told me I resemble an I.R.A. terrorist (again not a joke, and probably not intended to be a complement either), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some issues sleeping on this vacation.
Of course, if you really want to edify yourself on the struggle for Irish independence, The Rising and all of its aftershocks over the past century, I strongly suggest you check out the RTE special. It’s a highly entertaining and exceedingly informational series narrated by Liam Neeson.
While Dolores O’Riordan is now gone, and with her The Cranberries as we knew them, their music still persists. It’s music with a strong, important message, and that should be one of the major takeaways from this week’s tragic news.
While she is gone, those who were inspired by her music live on, and should try and spread her message.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune corporation blogging community Chicago Now.
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