Remembering Dolores O’Riordan

DoloresIt was shocking to hear today of the death of Dolores O’Riordan, the memorable vocalist for the Irish band The Cranberries. She was only 46.

The last time I had spoken to her, in a 1999 interview amid a summer Cranberries tour, she had talked about how difficult it was in the band — at least util her son was born in 1997.

“I hated singing, I hated being on stage, I hated being in the Cranberries,” O’Riordan said. “I was constantly crying. I was going insane.

“I wanted to be a shopkeeper, a hairdresser, anything. I was so desperate to have a reality, friends, a regular boring life. I missed that. I wanted to make my own toast in the morning and just call my friend Nora and see what was up. I got so lonely and depressed.”

The band nearly broke up following its 1996 tour that ended with a string of cancellations because of exhaustion.

And O’Riordan, the force behind such Cranberries hits as “Linger” and “Zombie,” had had enough of the dizzying cycles of recording, promotion and touring. She thought she might not ever sing again.

She happily made an attempt at normal married life in Limerick back then, but still she did not sing. “When I got pregnant,” she said. “I started singing again.”

“It was my saving grace. I literally mean having this amazing human life, and our relationship in the sense of mother and child, redeemed my soul.”

It gave her a reality so different from the facade of the rock life.

“It’s really difficult for me to explain what it’s like,” she said. “I could go on for hours, but it would sound like the moaning of pop stars.”

She was just 18 when the Cranberries had their first hit with “Linger,” but perhaps no one, regardless of age, is truly prepared for this strange world.

“Living in hotels, in a different city each day, with no sense of reality,” she said. “Not being allowed out without security, and then when they allow you out, there’s all these screaming people who think they love you, but they don’t even know you. And if they lived with you for two days, they wouldn’t even like you.

“So you’re stuck in your room watching CNN all day. People start to feel like something has gone wrong for you. Or treat you like an alien. You’re living in a fishbowl, usually with all these guys — there’s no girls out there. And you miss your family, and you miss weird things.

“Like, I missed a lot of family weddings and funerals because we were out on the road and had these big gigs, and you can’t pull out of these gigs at the last minute because too many people are counting on it. It got to the point where I was consumed with that.”

But when she did get home, “people think you’re from another planet,” she said. “I see why a lot of celebrities go nutty and sometimes do the old final number to self. It’s so surreal.

“People in concert keep yelling, ‘I love you,’ when you’re up there. When you’re down off the stage, they say, `See you, man.’

“It’s a funny old world,” she said. “I was just looking at People magazine, and they’re selling all of Marilyn Monroe’s old things. People are so excited about her things. And in the pictures, she looked so lonely. Stars get so isolated.”

Through her emotional experience, “I learned a lot,” O’Riordan said.

But, she told me,  “I keep on singing, writing songs. I live it. I plan to keep on working. I’m only 27. I’m not ready to sit at home and polish shoes and do the dishes yet. I’ll wait until I’m 40 to do that.”

During the 1999 interview, at least, O’Riordan said it was still “exciting to be on tour again. Each gig is brilliant and fun. When it becomes a routine, we’ll take a break. There’s no point in doing it if you don’t enjoy it.”

O’Riordan was in London for a recording session when she died. No details on the cause were immediately available.

The band cancelled a string of shows in 2017 after O’Riordan was told by doctors to stop working because of a back problem. Shows that had been planned for North America last fall were canceled before they began, though the band performed a Billboard staff party in New York during the holidays.


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