In Memory of Dolores O’Riordan, the voice of Irish rock

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This is not to be the usual article that deals with the disappearance of a celebrity: the media have already unleashed enough about the death of Dolores O’Riordan, the Irish singer leader of the Cranberries who abandoned us on January 15th, 2018. Without analyzing the issue too deeply, all we can say about this sad event is that Dolores was a person fragile and strong at the same time, a woman who loved the three children she had by Don Burton, Duran Duran’s ex-manager, who married her in 1994. We do not want to dwell too much on the strange situation where the authorities rushed on the place, a hotel on Park Lane in London, where the singer was for a brief recordings session, declaring first a “unexplained death,” and then dismissing it as “not suspicious”.

The real objective of this article is to track back the story of this artist. An artist who has given a powerful voice to Irish rock and who has been able to interpret pieces full of emotion, born from a mixture of autobiographical elements, social issues and controversial topics.

Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan was born in 1971 in Limerick, on a Catholic family, and she is the youngest of seven siblings. She has a tormented childhood, especially between 8 and 12 years, because of the abuses by a family friend, a trauma that will mark her in the years, causing depression and serious eating disorders. The tragedy will inspire the composition of the song Ode to My Family (above).

Nevertheless, Dolores begins to approach the music in very early years. In 1990 the real breakthrough comes in his life: she participates in an audition for a group called The Cranberry Saw Us, composed by the brothers Noel and Mike Hogan (respectively guitar and bass) and Fergal Lawler (drums). They are looking for a good substitute for singer Niall Quinn, who is determined to abandon them. It’s Quinn himself who reported the young Dolores to his companions, determining the beginning of her adventure with those who will soon change their name in The Cranberries.

We are on the early 90s, in an Ireland that sees, as well as the rest of the world, a radical change of the music scene: we discover new tendencies like Alternative Rock and, at the same time, the influences from grunge arrive. In an age of transition such as that, The Cranberries, led by an energetic Dolores O’Riordan, find the right environment to emerge thanks to the debut single Uncertain, which receives a huge success and will give name to a subsequent EP. Shortly thereafter, in ’93, the group supports Suede on the American tour and, in the same year, prepares to debut with the album Everybody Else Is Doing the Same, So Why Can’t We?. From that moment on, the world learns about the existence of The Cranberries: Dolores is a charismatic artist, who sings with passion and who -most important- knows how to transmit her passion to the public.

In the subsequent albums, the band is not afraid to approach hot topics, understanding the true communicative power of music. For example No Need To Argue (1994) contains the song Zombie, which proposes a crude examination on the consequences of the Northern Ireland conflict. Ireland is the land of traditions where the Cranberries have their roots, exploring the boundaries of Celtic Rock. But success is not everything for Dolores: carrying on his fight against depression, the singer relies on music, as well as religion, demonstrating a particular affection for Pope John Paul II -she will meet him face-to-face at the Christmas concert in 2001.

Despite the many successful publications, in 2003 Dolores moves away from the band, looking for her own way, starting her solo career and publishing two albums: Are You Listening? (2007) and No Baggage (2009). A wrong decision, however, that she will backtrack, leading to the group’s reunion (2009) and the subsequent release of the album I (2011).

Meanwhile, Dolores carries on other projects such as the new Wave/electronic super trio D.A.R.K., born in 2016 from collaboration with bassist Andy Rourke (The Smiths) and producer Olé Koretsky. D.A.R.K.’s first full-length, Science Agrees, is registered in Ontario, Canada.

We arrive now in the recent times: our singer has suffered some bipolar disorders, instability in the mood and a strong depression -it seems it never abandoned her. After assaulting a hostess and a police officer at the Shannon Airport, Dolores risks the arrest, but she is released because of her precarious mental health conditions.

This unfortunate situation of unhappiness drags her more and more towards a dark mood, that somehow helps her to deal with her pain. In short, her death seems to have been determined by these factors, even if nothing can be confirmed: what is sure is that the world of music tragically lost an icon of rock, a personality that marked an era and gave voice to a great band, brave and determined. And that’s how we want to remember her.

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