Unknown in 1991, Dolores O’Riordan was soon fronting one of the biggest band in the world, writes Joyce Fegan
“They have no idea how good they are, of how important they might yet become,” read a 1991 review of the then unknown Cranberries, from their gig at UCC’s student bar.
Dolores was singled out for not needing to be told who she was, by fans or critics.
Born in Ballybricken, Co Limerick in 1971, as Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan, the singer was the youngest of seven children.
Before she shot to fame with The Cranberries in the 1990s, Dolores attended Laurel Hill Secondary School in the city, where she was known among the pupils for her “brilliant voice”.
The Cranberries formed in 1989, with Dolores joining in 1990, at the age of 19.
Originally called The Cranberry Saw Us, the band was set up by brothers Mike and Noel Hogan, with Fergal Lawler on drums and Niall Quinn as lead singer.
When Quinn left after just a year, the band went looking for a replacement in the city. Dolores responded to an ad she saw looking for a singer by writing lyrics and melodies to some of her existing demos.
She was hired after the three remaining founders heard her sing ‘Linger’.
Together they recorded a three-track EP, Nothing Left At All, with local label Xeric Records, which sold 300 copies.
It was at this time that they decided to change their name to The Cranberries.
Pearse Gilmore, the owner of Xeric Records, came on board as their manager and provided the up-and-coming band with studio time to record another demo tape. It was this tape that featured early versions of ‘Linger’ and ‘Dreams’.
An early gig in the UCC student bar set the tone of what was to come.
“They have no idea how good they are, of how important they might yet become,” read the review by Colm O’Callaghan, in Melody Maker magazine in October 1991.
“She’s stopped reading her band’s press because she doesn’t need us to tell her who she is.”
In 1992, The Cranberries hit mainstream success, when ‘Dreams’ was released as their debut single. This was followed up in 1993 with their first full-length album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?
‘Linger’ appeared on this album and when the band supported Suede, they caught the attention of MTV.
From here they went on to achieve Billboard success in the US, with four top-20 albums and selling 40m records.
In 1994, Dolores married Canadian Don Burton, whom she met when he was the tour manager of rock band Duran Duran.
Together, they have three children, Taylor Baxter Burton, Molly Leigh Burton, and Dakota Rain Burton.
In 2003, after Dolores’s first two children were born, The Cranberries went on a six-year hiatus, so the members could pursue their own solo careers. They reunited in 2009.
However, Dolores had been struggling with health issues.
“It was around the time of the third Cranberries’ album, To The Faithful Departed,” she said in a 2014 interview. “All the songs were depressing and I was very depressed and I was extremely anorexic on that record and as it came out I got progressively worse.
“Looking back now, I never thought that I’d be here with two boys and two girls.
“I realise now that life isn’t about money, fame. Actually, all that crap. It’s simply love that’s important.”
A year earlier, in 2013, in another interview, the singer revealed her experience of childhood sexual abuse.
It took place from when she was eight until she was 12 and was carried out by someone she said was in a position of trust in her home county.
“It took years and years and years of counselling,” said Dolores.
gone too soon.
rest in power to one of our biggest musical inspirations, dolores o'riordan.
thank you. pic.twitter.com/ZghvQS4p2M— MUNA (@whereisMUNA) January 15, 2018
“It is something that I carried forever. There is a great sense of a great burden off my shoulders. I feel it is going to help me by opening up and just confessing to all of those people who bought my albums and that love me and come to my gigs and all those fans.”
In early 2014, Dolores joined The Voice of Ireland, where she was credited with bringing a breath of fresh air to the series.
Sad news - Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly in London. She was 46 years old. The lead singer with The Cranberries, was in London for a short recording session. pic.twitter.com/lBfU9mWk6W— Declan Varley (@declanvarley) January 15, 2018
RIP Dolores O'Riordan 🙏🏻 Thank you for being the great singer of #thecranberries, an amazing inspiration for a generation. We will keep deep memories of your unique voice in hearts, in our souls and "in our heads". ❤️ 🍀 🇮🇪 @thecranberries #doloresoriordan #rip #love #legend #singer #talent #ireland #love #amazing #performance #emotion #stage #music #femalesinger #model #voice #show #artist #irish #missed #90s #rock #rockband #prayers #rocklegend
However, by the summer she said she missed her adopted home town of Buckhorn in Canada and said she would not be returning to do another series.
In November 2014, news broke of an air rage incident involving the Limerick singer.
SINGER, SONGWRITER & MAMMY: Dolores O’Riordan R.I.P. -
She was 46 years old and was in London for a short recording session. pic.twitter.com/9Qggx1PRXl— Ian Dempsey (@IanDempsey) January 15, 2018
She later pleaded guilty to headbutting and spitting at a garda following the incident and avoided a criminal conviction by paying a court fine.
She told officers during her arrest at Shannon Airport that she was an “icon” and the “Queen of Limerick”.
RIP Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries…one of my favorite bands growing up. Gone too soon. pic.twitter.com/LnVTEMUKhE— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) January 15, 2018
Three days later, it emerged that she was separating from her husband of 20 years.
“She is going through a marriage separation at the moment. That’s hard for anyone,” her mother Eileen said at the time.
Did a French exchange with a wonderful family living in a small town called Pontivy 25 years ago. Reason I was chosen as a suitable exchange? I came from the same town as Dolores O'Riordan. She put #limerick on the map. Her voice will never die #RIPDolores pic.twitter.com/ULrjdGYOxV— Nigel Dugdale (@nigeldugdale) January 15, 2018
Dolores was later diagnosed as being bipolar but continued to record music and tour.
Before the air rage incident, she had started recording material with Jetlag, founded by The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, which later changed its names to D.A.R.K.
RIP Dolores O'Riordan. Thank you for everything you gave us. pic.twitter.com/Bz0MTTOqUV— FRESHAVOCADO (@JaimeeJam) January 15, 2018
Their first album was released in September 2016.
Meanwhile, she was still working with The Cranberries and in April 2017, their seventh studio album Something Else, was released.
They were meant to tour following its release but plans were cancelled due to Dolores’s ill health. At the time of her death, she was in London recording new music.
Her final public comment was made on January 3, where Dolores posted a picture of herself and a cat to Twitter with the caption: “Bye bye Gio. We’re off to Ireland.”
bye bye Gio. We're off to Ireland 🍀 pic.twitter.com/d6HKOFJqGB— Dolores O'Riordan (@DolORiordan) January 4, 2018
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