Dolores O’Riordan, A Multifaceted Woman In Music

By Amy Hanna, Production/Radio Promo Coordinator

Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, passed away on Monday very suddenly. She was 46. When I heard the news, the shock paralyzed me for a moment. When an artist passes away, especially one that’s an inspiration to so many, the reality is difficult to process. You expect these people to be all-powerful, invincible, but moments like these prove that they have always been human. I thought about all the ways that Dolores’ voice and presence had permeated and shaped my own life, and the grief began coming in waves.

Dolores O’Riordan was the voice for women in the 90’s. At 23, I am a little too young to grasp the fullness of her impact, but I know when I heard “Dreams” for the first time, my heart sped up in a way I’ll never forget. It was the feeling of knowing I was listening to something really, really special. There are very few perfect songs in this world. However, “Dreams” by The Cranberries is one of them. “Dreams” soundtracked so many iconic 90’s movie moments (You Got Mail, anyone?), offering an unmatched earnest swell, a greater tug on the heartstrings than anything happening on screen. The song is simple, but everything about it screams sweetness, hope–it’s the audial equivalent of the light at the end of the tunnel. My heart still races when I hear that song.

But when you look at a song like “Zombie”, another one of The Cranberries’ biggest hits, it’s almost worlds apart in energy. Gone is the dreamy, soft-voiced Dolores O’Riordan, singing about hopefulness in tomorrow, and in her place is an undeniable tornado of fury. The song is guttural and ferocious, and contains all of Dolores’ anger toward the IRA and their bombing of Warrington, England, responsible for killing two innocent children. Dolores’ execution of that song alone makes her a legend in rock music. More than this, “Zombie” proved that Dolores O’Riordan was so much more than everyone’s hasty assumptions of her. This soft, lilting Limerick songstress could be angry, too.

Dolores O’Riordan was a woman for women, period, and despite all my idolization of her, she was deeply human. She was always open about her struggles with bipolar disorder, and her journey despite the obstacles her mental health brought on. She’s also shared her struggles as a victim of sexual violence. Amidst all the tremendous hurt she was feeling, O’Riordan sought to comfort her audiences, and to empower them. The performance above is a song called “Pretty”, performed in Paris in 1999. O’Riordan dedicated this song to women everywhere, declaring each one “pretty, just as you are.” The straightforward sentiment still rings true and beautiful today; I encourage you to check out the performance above, as it really does feel like a warm hug.

When we lost Dolores O’Riordan, we lost a pioneer in music. We lost a voice that was soft and ferocious, in equal measure, always at the appropriate time. We lost an unmatched inspiration to women in music. We lost a complex human being. But the best way to move forward is to continue to admire her complexity, and carry her delicacy and fire within us as a tribute.

Rest in peace, Dolores O’Riordan. Thank you for showing me how complex, layered, and beautiful women can be.

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