On January 15, Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Irish band the Cranberries, was found dead in a London hotel room. The 46 year old singer made a huge impact on the rock scene of the 1990’s.Boasting a voice that was haunting, penetrating, piercing, and vulnerable, yet strong, O’Riordan made a huge and immediate impact on the music scene of the 1990s.
She met a local band called the Cranberry Saw Us in 1990 and joined as their lead singer. Guitarist Noel Hogan said he was immediately taken with the voice: “Dolores came and sang a few songs she had written. We were blown away that this small girl from Limerick had such an amazing voice. The fact that she wasn’t already in a band was a miracle.” Renamed the Cranberries, the band sparked an intense bidding war by major labels. Their 1993 debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, was a smash hit. The songs “Linger” and “Dreams” were huge hits, backed by waves of guitars and shimmering vocals. The following year brought No Need to Argue, which was also a hit in the alt-rock scene.
“Zombie” was the band’s most popular hit, and is now its final legacy. O’Riordan wrote the song after two children were killed by IRA terrorists in England. It was a controversial subject, and one that Island Records urged the band not to pursue as a single. The band’s ex-manager, Ron Kovac, told Rolling Stone that Island even offered Riordan $1 million to work on another song; she tore up the check. Kovac said O’Riordan was highly opinionated and not afraid to make a statement.
Musicians expressed their shock and dismay at O’Riordan’s passing.
“I once met Dolores O’Riordan when I was 15. She was kind and lovely, I got her autograph on my train ticket and it made my day,” James Corden tweeted. “She had the most amazing voice and presence.”
Hozier tweeted, “My first time hearing Dolores O’Riordan’s voice was unforgettable. It threw into question what a voice would sound like in that context of Rock. I’d never heard somebody use their instrument in that way. Shocked and saddened to hear of her passing, thoughts are with her family.”
Halsey said: “Heartbreaking. Dolores O’Riordan was a massive influence for me. I grew up listening to The Cranberries with my mother and learned so much about having an unconventional singing voice. Dolores taught me how to use my voice in a manner that was emotive, even if I wasn’t classically skilled. That people will love it when you MEAN what you SAY. Her voice was beautiful to me. And she was a fierce BADASS trailblazing woman in the rock landscape. (I also learned a thing or two about changing my hair every week it seems). Always an inspiration to me and I’m devastated to hear about her death. Rest In Peace, you were far too young.”
Fellow 1990’s icons REM’s official statement said, “We are all saddened to hear the news. Dolores was a brilliant and generous spirit with a quick humor and a stunning voice. Our love to the band and to her family and fans.” -Michael Stipe & the whole of R.E.M. and REMHQ.
O’Riordan was working when she passed away from unknown causes. She was in London to work with the band D.A.R.K., an electronica outfit that she lent vocals to, as well as to meet with metal band Bad Wolves, which was recording a cover of Zombie. Bad Wolves released the song without her vocals and it is roaring up the rock charts. “Zombie” debuted at No. 25 on Hot Rock Songs (which blends streaming, download sales and radio airplay data), o Proceeds from the song will benefit O’Riordan’s three children.
Cranberries members Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan and Fergal Lawler were pallbearers at O’Riordan’s funeral. The band released a statement expressing their heartbreak. “We are devastated on the passing of our friend Dolores,” they said. “She was an extraordinary talent and we feel very privileged to have been part of her life from 1989 when we started the Cranberries. The world has lost a true artist today.”