The soundtrack to many people’s youth and young adulthood will never sound like it once did. The Cranberries’ lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan, passed away in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 15. Only 46 years old, she had been performing for more than half of her life. She was barely 20 years old when she auditioned and secured the spot to be Cranberry Saw Us’ lead singer, and by 23, the newly renamed Cranberries had a debut album that was quickly becoming a commercial success.
The band was associated with alternative rock; which, for a music genre, was a ‘90s staple, but they often flirted with indie pop, folk rock, and post-punk elements, making their sound even more unique and authentic to them. As they rose in the charts and grew into an internationally known band, O’Riordan made sure that they never lost their foothold in their music. Her distinct voice, both soft and fierce, was emphasized above electric guitars being played to a T, putting her hearty, Irish accent on full display. She was a vocalist who stayed true to herself and her roots, even as her band escalated to the extent that they did.
When The Cranberries went on a hiatus in 2003, O’Riordan wasn’t even close to being done. Just because her band took a break, did not mean that she took a break from music — it was her life, her heart, her soul. The power and honesty she brought to music made her even more of a powerhouse than she was. Her first solo album, Are You Listening?, came out in 2007, but for those four years in between, she was still quite busy. From vocals on Twin Peaks’ theme song, cameos in movies, touring around Ireland (and the world), and working with Italian musician Zucchero, Dolores O’Riordan was never done with music…Music was her place in the world.
The Cranberries got back together in 2009, touring and performing a range of songs from their classics and their hits, to O’Riordan’s solo work and new, unreleased songs, as well. It was as though the ‘90s were back, with her lyrics and voice painting a headstrong, yet sensitive story. It seemed to define her well, as a woman who over the years had battled anorexia, depression, abuse, and more recently, bipolar disorder and other physical issues such as terrible, almost disabling back problems.
Earlier this year, she told the Metro Newspaper UK that she wanted to get back into the swing of things — music wise. “I’d like to do another album, another tour and work with more artists. I haven’t been doing too much over the last five years. Sometimes you go through periods where you’re not writing music, you’re just dealing with your personal life.”
Even though she has passed before 2018 got to witness or hear any of these goals, there is still a whole catalog of music she participated in for the world to go back to and enjoy. Through her highs and lows, she was — and always will be — seen as an esteemed vocalist and musician, a talented, Irish idol, a style icon, and a passionate performer. Alternative rock will never be the same. Rest in Peace Dolores O’Riordan.