Yesterday the music world was shocked and saddened by the news that Dolores O’Riordan, front woman of The Cranberries and solo artist passed away in London at the age of 46. She Shreds remembers the impact of O’Riordan’s music and unique creative vision.
I couldn’t even try to pinpoint the exact moment I first heard Dolores O’Riordan’s voice. It was always there—a 90s beacon heard on the radio and in movie soundtracks.
I remember seeing the band perform “Zombie”—a protest song written solely by O’Riordan about an Irish Republican terrorist bombing in 1993—on the David Letterman show in 1994, putting a name and a face to the Cranberries songs that reverberated in the background of my youth. Along with O’Riordan’s vocals and outfit, her guitar playing during this performance—on a Gibson ES-335 electric guitar—was aggressive and powerful. The guitar itself seemed to assume the position of a weapon, ala Woody Guthrie’s infamous instrument emblazoned with the warning, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”
In 1989, Limerick, Ireland-based rock band, The Cranberry Saw Us, posted an ad looking for a new lead singer after their original vocalist left the group. O’Riordan auditioned and soon landed the gig. Among the first lyrics she wrote for the group (which soon changed its name to The Cranberries) were for the song “Linger,” which would become an international hit upon its release on the band’s 1993 debut album, Everyone Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?. Along with her vocal and songwriting contributions O’Riordan played guitar, and later keyboards, in the band.
As the Cranberries rose to fame, O’Riordan became one of the most iconic rock musicians of the era. The band’s mix of alternative rock and pop with hints of Irish folk, topped with O’Riordan’s heartfelt lyrics and captivating voice, made them a mainstay on MTV, radio, and the international stage, but never failed to touch fans on a personal level.
O’Riordan performed with the Cranberries for 13 years before the band went on a hiatus in 2003. They reunited in 2009. In between, she released her solo albums Are You Listening? (2007, Sanctuary Records) and No Baggage (2009, Cooking Vinyl). She was reportedly working on new material at the time of her death.
Much of O’Riordan’s music, especially her work with The Cranberries, has transcended the test of time and continues to influence musicians around the world. Japanese Breakfast sometimes plays “Dreams” during their live set, while the Philadelphia indie rock supergroup Dove Jeans and Sad Shamir (including Shamir, The Dove and the Wolf, Queen of Jeans, and Sad13) recorded a video cover of “Linger” last year.
With her Irish accent, Celtic inflections, and unique musical talent, Dolores O’Riordan created an individual voice that will never be recreated or forgotten.