Dolores O’Riordan: Voice of a Generation

Arts & Culture

Fans of the Irish rock band The Cranberries are in shock at the loss of one of their own, writes Arlene Mathew

The sudden and unexplained death of Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Irish band The Cranberries, has left her global fan base reeling from the news and caught in a torrent of emotions, a mixture of nostalgia and loss. Propelled to fame through their song ‘Zombie’ released in 1994, the band has drawn millions of fans from all around the globe. While many attended her funeral at Limerick, Ireland, the rest of them took to social media to express their grief over her passing.

The Cranberries was first formed in 1989 with Niall Quinn as lead singer, who was later replaced by Dolores O’Riordan, ‘a girl with a unique voice’. The band, with Noel Hogan as the guitarist, Mike Hogan as the bassist and Fergal Lawler as the drummer, incorporated alternative rock and Irish folk music in their songs.

Described in 1995 by Rolling Stone magazine as “part Audrey Hepburn, part David Bowie,” Dolores has always been a unique singer, her songs echoing her experience of life and love. With her distinct Irish brogue, effortless yodeling, Celtic undertones and catchy tunes, the singer’s voice stood sublime and distinct from that of any other.Her voice underscored the power that music had to ‘Linger’ on in the listeners’ mind.

“Dolores’ voice was so amazing and unique,” says Vivian Samartha, a music lover from Bengaluru.“We could immediately recognize the voice whenever it was played. One of my favorite performances of hers was the one at the Warsaw concert. I believe it was backed by Irish Chamber Orchestra. The level of connect she had with her audience was amazing,” The song ‘Zombie’ written by Dolores, was inspired by the 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington, England, and was written in memory of the two young victims of the bombing, Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry.

It soared to fame on the wings of her powerful voice, at once a lament and an anthem to end violence, imprinting each lyric into the listeners’ mind. The music takes the listener on a journey, the voice so raw, supplemented with astrong rhythm, a driving bass line and the hard, industrial buzz of the electric guitar.


The song won the “Best Song” award at the 1995 MTV Europe Music Awards. Tim Parry’s father, Colin Parry, who had been unaware that the song was inspired by his son, reportedly thanked Dolores for the ‘majestic and very real’ words she used in the song. This song is also the one that garnered the attention of music-lovers and critics worldwide.

“It was in mid-nineties that I heard the song Zombie on MTV. The music was just amazing…and we ended up buying the cassette. ‘Zombie’, ‘Linger’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Ode to my family’ are some of my favorite songs of hers,” recalls Vivian. “It was when we grew up that we really understood the meaning of the song Zombie. After that, we became more involved in her music.”

Dolores’ death has forced a wave of strong nostalgia among fans of The Cranberries’ music. Five songs from The Cranberries’ catalog reached Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart Dolores had always stood out of the mold, not just with her unique voice, but also with her striking personality. She was always original, and never felt the need to have to copy someone else to stay relevant.

“I don’t want to get into a clique of people that I suddenly feel I have to have an identity with,” she said in an interview with Billboard. She had often proclaimed herself as a rebel, despite her strong catholic upbringing. Many of her fans found themselves resonating with her emotions, living her life through her music.

Her death sparked conversations in The Cranberries’ YouTube channel’s comment sections, Twitter, and Facebook, with many ardent fans learning of her death through those conversations. “I was going through the comments under a YouTube video of theirs and noticed someone comment ‘RIP’. Immediately, I got a horrible sinking feeling. I was praying for it to not be what I thought it was. I have always loved listening to their songs… her death just breaks my heart,” said Conor O’Brien, a fan of The Cranberries’ from Ireland.

“It’s hard to describe this feeling … when I saw the headlines of her passing I felt like I lost a part of me. I really think she was one of those people who put her heart and soul into her music — and I am so glad that we were lucky enough to have gotten to know a part of her and the band in this way,” said Benjamin Robison, a fan of the band from Oklahoma.

Dolores lived in troubled times and her songs and life reflected those realities like few other artists. She admitted to having had trouble handling popularity. There were incidents of erratic behavior which was later attributed by her mother to her being unable to deal with the end of her 20-year-old marriage. News of her death has revived speculations about the problems she had been going through, and paints a vulnerable side of her, that so far had been hidden under her music, fame and on-screen persona. With Dolores O’Riordan’s death, the world has lost yet another icon, a singer whose songs expressed emotions relatable to an entire generation.

As the last chapter of her life concludes, we are left reminded of how singers like her have left a part of themselves, imprinted in our minds, revived often with the highs and lows of our emotions.

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