With an immediately recognizable voice and dramatic chops to spare, as evidenced on the all-time great track “Zombie”, Dolores O’Riordan was an artist that I appreciated on the periphery. I was aware of the greatness that the Cranberries gave us in the 90s: “Linger” is one of the prettiest and vulnerable songs of the era’s alt-light genre, and “Dreams” stands to this day as pop/rock magic; but I never got too deep into their work or considered the band a favorite. However, I always admired her voice – equal parts shrill and beautiful. And I am not ashamed to say, that while I didn’t even know her name before this morning when I learned that she had passed away unexpectedly and without an officially released cause at age 46 while recording in London, I immediately felt like I had lost something. Or, at least, had lost a part of my childhood.
You see, “Zombie” and Dolores have always been a part of my life. That song (at least to me) defined the movement of women in rock that I grew up listening to, which also gave us Alanis Morissette, Shirley Manson, Chan Marhsall, and Kim Deal, among others. And that song: brilliant in it’s dark and disturbing subject matter and visceral vocals. This was haunting rock that mattered.
Over the years, the song stuck with me, whether it was the occasional encounter on the radio or at a club, or it’s many forays in pop culture, my favorite of which is Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) singing it horribly in a classic episode of The Office. Less than a month ago, as I listened to the latest Eminem release, Revival, I was surprised to hear the track sampled on his song “In Your Head”. While that song is fine, and the album is actually pretty damn good, I immediately turned Spotify to the original Cranberries song and turned it way up.
That is the power of good music: it sticks with you. Some say it ages well; I say it doesn’t age at all. It still has the power to captivate and move us, which I contend is getting harder and harder to do in our modern day of instant gratification and limitless on-demand potential. While I do not claim to be an aficionado of her life or work, for me, that is her legacy: she wrote more than a couple songs that move me and take me back, every time I hear them. Rest in Peace, Dolores. No matter the cause or circumstance, 46 years is nowhere near long enough to be here.