18 January

A tribute to Dolores O’Riordan: why did the Cranberries mark their era?


At the age of 46, the singer of the iconic 90s Irish rock band has mysteriously died, in the middle of a recording session in London. A premature departure that reminds us of the extent to which the Cranberries and their controversial leader were very much a part of our adolescence.

By Violaine Schütz

Because they symbolise the anger of the 90s


Along with Creep by Radiohead and Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spiritnot many other pieces of music symbolised the nineties as much as Zombies by the Cranberries. Behind this powerful and angry track, played at every single pre-ado nihilist party at the time and non-stop on MTV, was a scathing political message: the vehement denunciation of the civil war in Northern Ireland and all wars in fact. The song was written by its singer, Dolores, after an IRA bombing that killed two children in 1993. The video featuring child soldiers and a Dolores as a goddess/martyr in front of a cross covered with gold paint, marked a generation of memories. The album helped to push the hit tune to the top of the charts in 1993. With more than 3 million albums sold before the end of the year, the band recorded one of the most moving Unplugged sessions on MTV in New York. In all, the Cranberries sold nearly 40 million records around the world. Something that kept them going for a long time even when the band slowed down in the 2000’s with more disappointing albums…

The Cranberries - Zombie

A controversial leader


At the beginning of the 1990s, the punkette with her tomboy allure (leather jacket, multiple earrings, skin-tight micro-mini) Dolores O' Riordan was a rock icon coveted by unconventional girls for her sexy androgyny and talents as a singer and songwriter. They also recognised themselves in the tormented and eccentric side of this angry little sister to Sinead O'Connor who changed her hair colour as quickly as her mood. Dolores Mary Eileen O' Riordan, the last born into a family of strict Catholics with seven children, had a modest and difficult childhood. After a motorbike accident, her father was wheelchair-bound and could no longer work. Their house caught fire. The worst trauma however was the sexual abuse she endured at the age of eight. She found reprieve at church, singing the hymns and playing the organ, the piano and ultimately the guitar at 17. But as soon as success happened (too much too soon?) she started to express her polemic opinions. Hers was an angel’s voice with incredible timbre but rarely used for platitudes. Staunchly against the Troubles in Ireland, the young woman wasn’t against the death penalty… The incredibly pious mother-of-three preferred Pope John-Paul II and sang Ave Maria with Pavarotti in 1995. In an interview she revealed herself to be against abortion and feminism. As a sufferer of bi-polar disorder and anorexia, she physically attacked an air hostess and policemen. An alt-right Amy Winehouse?

The Cranberries - Linger

An enthusiastic indie band


While everyone remembers Zombie, lots have forgotten the early days of the Cranberries. Their first demos Linger and Dreams, lusciously melodic indie rock with exhilarating guitars seduced Geoff Travis at Rough Trade as well as producer Stephen Street (who’d previously worked with the Smiths). Their seminal album, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” (1993) remains a jewel in the crown of melancholic pop. At the time the band went off to tour America as the support act for The The and Suede. For anyone who was a teenager during this era when the future looked bleak, there wasn’t much else. It was either Dr Dre’s rap, the nonchalant stubbornness of grunge, or the flayed romantic sensibility of the Cranberries and their brittle lead singer. We remember those chiselled riffs of that first record, which would never again be matched for the rest of their career, and the image of a pretty and shy girl, head hung low, a sulky pout, dressed head to toe in black (right up to her raven hair) on the cover. The most beautiful shot of a fragile artist who fought all her life against depression and whose last recording was made with her group and Andy Rourke from the Smiths, ironically called D.A.R.K. The troubled elfin Dolores will always be a mystery, even in death, leaving questions unanswered. “I live how I want to, otherwise I won’t live at all,” she said. A prophecy? 


The Cranberries - Ode To My Family