In 1993, in response to the deaths of two children killed by a bomb planted in a trash bin by the Irish Republican Army in Warrington, England, Dolores O’Riordan wrote a song called ‘Zombie’.
“I remember seeing one of the mothers on television, just devastated, I felt so sad for her, that she’d carried him for nine months, been through all the morning sickness, the whole thing and some … prick, some airhead who thought he was making a point, did that.” she said in 1994.
“I picked up the electric guitar. Then I kicked in distortion on the chorus, and I said to [drummer] Ferg, ‘Maybe you could beat the drums pretty hard?” she told Team Rock last year.
An unexpected combination of heavy guitar distortion, her lyrics and her ethereal voice, ‘Zombie’ became one of the most popular anti-violence protest songs. The sincerity of her sadness, anger and outrage in “Zombie” resonated throughout the years. She also used to regularly dedicate it to the victims of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda. The other day, I woke up to the news of the passing away of Dolores O’ Riordan of The Cranberries. On 15 January 2018, she died unexpectedly in a hotel room in London, just hours before she was scheduled to record vocals on a version of “Zombie” by metal band Bad Wolves. Many poured their hearts out on social media as the news broke.
“I am shocked and saddened to hear that Dolores O’ Riordan passed away. That big debut album came at a time in my life when everything was brand new, emotionally charged, and so very confusing. Her iconic voice always finds its way into those very specific memories of mine. ‘Dreams’ reminds me of all my ride-or-die friends and our wild adventures. ‘Linger’ always makes me think of my first true love.”, lamented Amy Peace Zeliang from Senapati. From Imphal, Susma Sharma Gurumayum wrote, ” ‘Zombie’ is very close to my heart, will always be. The Cranberries was my teenage jam, and it continues. Thank you for your life Dolores O’ Riordan, rest in peace.” Wahengbam Naresh, shared photos of his wall filled with Dolores’ posters and his treasured Cranberries audio tape cassettes from the days gone by.
“I still remember singing ode to my family when I was 13-14 years old. I still sing that song and Dolores O’ Riordan was a big inspiration to me.”, recalled June Neelu Sharma Guruaribam from Bangalore.
“She was so shy and so sweet, I think she was even in her school uniform at the time and I remember saying to her ‘You have to get this recorded.” said Limerick DJ Mickey Mac who was approached by Dolores O’Riordan with her first ever demo tape. “She never changed, she was so humble. You’d meet her and she’d nearly be apologising. She was terribly humble. She didn’t want to be a superstar, I think she had a problem with being a superstar, I often think she would nearly have preferred to sing to her friends at Dolan’s warehouse in Limerick.” he told the Irish Independent.
Dolores was from a humble background in Limerick, Ireland. She was a country girl from a small town, and her upbringing had not prepared her for the madness of global celebrity. Like a tomboy, she used to bury her dolls in the garden and spent time with her brothers who listened to heavy metal music. Just like any other ordinary girl, she also played the organ in church and wore flowery dresses her mother bought for her.
She started writing songs since she was 12 years old. Sometime in 1990, she responded to an advertisement for a female singer from a local band, which later came to be known as The Cranberries, by showing her vocals ability and her potential to write melodies and lyrics for their demos.
Her distinctive Celtic tinged lilting vocal style and their trademark ‘Indie’ guitar sound propelled the Cranberries to global fame in the early 1990s. The Cranberries became one of alt-rock era’s biggest successful bands. She found the fame and spotlight a difficult place to be. Besides that she had her inner struggles, she was dealing with her demons. She battled with depression throughout most of her career as a famous singer. “For four years, when I was a little girl, I was sexually abused. I was only a kid,” Dolores revealed in an interview in Sunday Independent’s LIFE Magazine in 2013. “I had anorexia, then depression, a breakdown,” she admitted. Last year, she disclosed that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2015. Inspite of the hardship, the brave Dolores appeared to be doing well before her sudden death. On Dec 20th 2017, she tweeted from The Cranberries’ official account, “Hi All, Dolores here. Feeling good!”
When I think of The Cranberries I think of their first single ‘Dreams’ the most. I fell in love with her and her band when I first saw their video of ‘Dreams’ which came repeatedly in MTV/ Channel V in 1992-93. ‘Dreams’ is unforgettable – her yodeling, repeated and rapid changes of pitch between low and high; she, ‘with her cropped pixie hair’, walked around with a microphone throughout the music video. I used to play their tape cassettes playing full album flipping the sides manually at home and in college hostel room. Their first three albums were some of the soundtracks of my teenage years. Their tracks have been in my phone and in my playlist till today. Last April, they released ‘Something Else’ – their seventh studio album. I had hoped to hear more from them, but she was taken away too soon from us.
A service “normally reserved for Presidents, Popes, and heads of State” remained opened for three days of mourning in Ireland. Thousands of people queued in the rain in Limerick to say their farewell to Dolores. A single floral tribute was displayed before her remains from her band mates reading simply: “The song has ended but the memories linger on.” Radio stations across Ireland paid tribute to Dolores as she was laid to rest in her hometown, by playing simultaneously the Cranberries’ hit ‘When You’re Gone’ as a mark of respect.
With Dolores’ passing away we have lost another icon who has been a part of our lives. Hers was an inimitable voice, expressing inexpressible emotions, through her intimate songwriting and ferocious vocals. She will be terribly missed. Neol Hogan, co-founder of The Cranberries said in a Rolling Stones interview after Dolores’ death, “Dolores’ legacy will be her music. She was so passionate about it. There are songs I hear today that we wrote over 20 years ago, and I see and hear people singing along with them. There are only a few artists who get to have maybe one song they are remembered by. Dolores has so many. It’s a great legacy.”
On that very day when the news of her demise broke out, by evening Maniac’s (an all girl band) Nancy Kangabam and Gosaimayum Chanu Sapna shared on social media a video of an impromptu heartfelt cover tribute of ‘When you are gone’ they hurriedly recorded live on their mobile phone. When I asked a promising young singer Elle M to try out ‘Dreams’, she made a sincere attempt, she sang, played the guitar, recorded and WhatsApped me as a humble tribute to Dolores. My five year old niece is still singing ‘Zombie’. Dolores has left a beautiful legacy.
Always in our hearts. Rest in Peace Dolores O’Riordan.