Dolores Mary Eileen O’Riordan (6 September 1971 – 15 January 2018) was an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician. She led the rock band The Cranberries from 1990 until their break-up in 2003; they reunited in 2009.
O’Riordan’s first solo album, Are You Listening?, was released in May 2007 and was followed up by No Baggage in 2009. O’Riordan was known for her lilting mezzo-soprano voice, her emphasised use of yodelling, and her strong Limerick accent. She appeared as a judge on RTÉ’s The Voice of Ireland during the 2013–14 season. In April 2014, O’Riordan joined and began recording new material with the trio D.A.R.K.
Dolores O’Riordan was born 6 September 1971 in Ballybricken, County Limerick, the youngest of nine children, two of whom died in infancy. Her six siblings include Terence, Brendan, Donal, PJ, Joseph, and Angela. Her father, Terence Patrick “Terry” O’Riordan (1937–2011), was a farm labourer who was left unable to work due to brain damage caused by a motorbike accident in 1968. Her mother, Eileen, was a school caterer. She attended Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ school in Limerick.
In 2013, O’Riordan described how, from the age of eight, she was sexually abused for four years by someone she trusted.
In 1990 O’Riordan auditioned for and won the role of lead singer for a band called the Cranberry Saw Us (later changed to the Cranberries). Before going on hiatus in 2003, they released five albums: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (1993), No Need to Argue (1994), To the Faithful Departed (1996), Bury the Hatchet (1999), and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2001), and a greatest-hits compilation, Stars: The Best of 1992-2002.
O’Riordan has been recognised as a style icon, sporting a pixie cut or buzzed hair in the 1990s and performing barefoot, saying “it just feels comfortable and honest to pull your toes along the ground.”
In January 2009, the University Philosophical Society (Trinity College, Dublin) invited The Cranberries to reunite for a concert celebrating O’Riordan’s appointment as an honorary member of the Society, which led the band members to consider reuniting for a tour and a recording session.
On 25 August 2009, while promoting her solo album No Baggage in New York City on 101.9 RXP radio, O’Riordan announced the reunion of the Cranberries for a world tour. The tour began in North America in mid-November, followed by South America in mid-January 2010 and Europe in March 2010. Also touring with the original members of The Cranberries was Denny DeMarchi, who played the keyboard for O’Riordan’s solo albums. The band played songs from O’Riordan’s solo albums, many of the Cranberries’ classics, as well as new songs. On 9 June 2010 The Cranberries performed at the Special Olympics opening ceremony at Thomond Park in Limerick; it was the first time the band had performed in their native city in over 15 years.
In 2004, she appeared with the Italian artist Zucchero on the album Zu & Co., with the song “Pure Love”. The album also featured other artists such as Sting, Sheryl Crow, Luciano Pavarotti, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Macy Gray, and Eric Clapton. The same year she worked with composer Angelo Badalamenti of Twin Peaks fame on the Evilenko soundtrack, providing vocals on several tracks, including “Angels Go to Heaven”, the movie’s theme song.
In 2005, she appeared on the Jam & Spoon’s album Tripomatic Fairytales 3003 as a guest vocalist on the track “Mirror Lover”. She made a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler comedy Click, released on 23 June 2006, as a wedding singer performing an alternate version of The Cranberries’ “Linger”, set to strings. Her first single, “Ordinary Day”, was produced by BRIT Awards winner, Youth, whose previous credits included The Verve, Embrace, Primal Scream, U2, and Paul McCartney. O’Riordan made an appearance live on The Late Late Show on 20 April 2007.
Are You Listening? was released in Ireland in 4 May 2007, in Europe on 7 May, and in North America on 15 May. “Ordinary Day” was its first single, released in late April. The video for “Ordinary Day” was shot in Prague. In August “When We Were Young” was released as the second single from the album.
On 19 November 2007, she cancelled the remainder of her European Tour (Lille, Paris, Luxembourg, Warsaw, and Prague) due to illness. In December she performed in a few small American clubs, including Des Moines, Nashville, and a well-received free show in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her second album, No Baggage, featuring 11 tracks, was released in August 2009.
In 2008, O’Riordan won an EBBA Award. Every year the European Border Breakers Awards recognise the success of ten emerging artists or groups who reached audiences outside their own countries with their first internationally released album in the past year.
O’Riordan began recording new material with Jetlag, a collaboration between Andy Rourke of The Smiths and Olé Koretsky, in April 2014. They then formed a trio under the name D.A.R.K. Their first album, Science Agrees, was released in September 2016.
On 18 July 1994, O’Riordan married Don Burton, the former tour manager of Duran Duran, at Holy Cross Abbey in Co. Tipperary. The couple had three children (Taylor (b. 1997), Molly (b. 2001), and Dakota (b. 2005). In 1998, the couple bought a 61-hectare (150-acre) stud farm, called Riversfield Stud, located in Kilmallock, County Limerick, selling it in 2004. They then moved to Howth, County Dublin, and spent summers in a log cabin in Buckhorn, Ontario, Canada. In 2009, the family moved full-time to Buckhorn.
In August 2013, she returned to live in Ireland. She and Burton ended their relationship in late 2014 after 20 years together.
O’Riordan was raised as a Roman Catholic. Her mother is a devout Catholic who chose her daughter’s name in reference to the Lady of the Seven Dolours.
She admired Pope John Paul II, whom she met twice, in 2001 and 2002. She performed at the invitation of Pope Francis in 2013 at the Vatican’s annual Christmas concert. In September 1995, she performed Ave Maria along with Luciano Pavarotti; Princess Diana, who attended the live performance, told O’Riordan that the song brought her to tears.
In November 2014, O’Riordan was arrested and charged in connection with air rage on an Aer Lingus flight from New York to Shannon. During the flight she grew verbally and physically abusive with crew. When police were arresting her, she resisted, reminding them her taxes paid their wages and shouting “I’m the Queen of Limerick! I’m an icon!”, headbutting one Garda officer and spitting at another. Later she told the media that she had been stressed from living in New York hotels following the end of her 20-year marriage. The judge hearing her case agreed to dismiss all charges if she apologised in writing to her victims and contributed €6,000 to the court poor box.
In May 2017, she publicly discussed her bipolar disorder, which she said had been diagnosed two years earlier. That same month, the Cranberries cited her back problems as the reason for cancelling the second part of the group’s European tour. In late 2017, O’Riordan said she was recovering and performed at a private event.
On 15 January 2018, at the age of 46, while in London for a recording session, O’Riordan died unexpectedly at the London Hilton on Park Lane hotel in Mayfair.
The cause of death was not immediately made public; police said it was not being treated as suspicious. The coroner’s office said the results of its inquiry would not be released until April at the earliest.
Funeral plans included a service reserved for extended family and close friends. A three-day memorial, with O’Riordan lying in public repose at her hometown in an open casket, lasted from 20–22 January at St Joseph’s church, where O’Riordan’s songs were played, while photographs of the singer performing and one of her with the Pope were placed along the walls.
On 23 January, she was buried after a service at Saint Ailbe’s Roman Catholic Church, Ballybricken, County Limerick; it began with the recording of the “Ave Maria”, sung by O’Riordan and Luciano Pavarotti. At the end of the service the Cranberries’ song “When You’re Gone” was played. Among the attendees at her funeral were her mother, Eileen; her three children, Taylor, Molly, and Dakota and their father, O’Riordan’s former husband, Don Burton; her sister, Angela, and brothers Terence, Brendan, Donal, Joseph, and PJ; Cranberries members Noel Hogan, Mike Hogan, and Fergal Lawler; former rugby union player Ronan O’Gara, and her boyfriend Olé Koretsky. O’Riordan was buried alongside her father in the same grave at Friarstown, County Limerick.
Tributes, reactions and legacy
Irish President Michael D. Higgins was one of the first to pay tribute. Other early tributes came in from across the music world, including Dave Davies (of the Kinks), Hozier, and Kodaline. The Taoiseach of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, also paid tribute to O’Riordan. Polish President Andrzej Duda paid tribute as well. Also, as a tribute, the Avett Brothers covered The Cranberries song “Linger”. On 18 January, the heavy metal band Bad Wolves released a cover of “Zombie” (originally by The Cranberries), which charted on multiple Billboard charts O’Riordan, was supposed to have performed the song with the band, but died prior to recording it. On 28 January, a children’s choir from New York City sang The Cranberries song “Dreams” in O’Riordan’s memory.
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