Dolores O’Riordan 1971–2018
The Cranberries singer who battled depression
Dolores O’Riordan had a voice that could switch in a moment from the sublime to the ferocious—but always carried a powerful undercurrent of pain. On the delicate “Linger,” a 1994 Top 10 hit for her alt-rock band the Cranberries, the Irish singer seems close to tears as she asks a callous lover for mercy: “You’ve got me wrapped around your finger / Do you have to let it linger?” In the same year’s “Zombie,” her voice hits a jagged extreme as she rages about the cycle of violence in Northern Ireland. The Cranberries sold 40 million records worldwide, but she struggled to balance that success with her own mental health problems, which included anorexia and bipolar disorder. She died in a London hotel last week at age 46; her death was not called suspicious. “Anyone who gets famous so quickly and so young,” O’Riordan once remarked, “you’re bound to be a bit of a casualty.”
Born in County Limerick to a “devout Catholic” family, O’Riordan had a troubled childhood, said The Times (U.K.). She was “beaten by the nuns” who ran her school and was sexually abused from age 8 to 12 by “someone the family trusted.” At 18, she joined the band that would become the Cranberries; “Linger” was the first song she wrote for the group. Despite O’Riordan’s initial shyness onstage—she sang side-on to avoid looking the audience in the eye—the band’s debut album, 1993’s Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We, became a “huge commercial success,” said The Washington Post. Their 1994 follow-up, No Need to Argue, did even better, selling 17 million copies. But as the band swapped love songs for sociopolitical rants on later albums, sales diminished, and the Cranberries disbanded in 2003.
O’Riordan tried to quit singing, first breeding horses on an Irish farm and then moving with her young family to the wilds of Ontario, but music proved “too strong a magnet,” said The Irish Times. After releasing two solo albums, she reconvened the Cranberries in 2008. But depression often stopped her performing. She survived a suicide attempt in 2013 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years later. “There have been times when I’ve struggled,” she said last year. “You get ups as well as downs. Sure, isn’t that what life’s all about?” ■