A Personal Tribute To Dolores O’Riordan
Yesterday was a tough day for me, as I’m still in shock about Dolores O’Riordan. One of the greatest voices of the ’90s, and in my opinion of all time, has left us. The unique vocals and poetic songwriting Dolores gifted us will forever reign amongst music fans. To honor her, I’d like to share my memories of her music and its impact on me.
The first time I ever heard The Cranberries was in my youth. My mother showed me a lot of great music from when she was a teenager in the ’90s (she was 18 when I was born); she especially had a love for alternative rock, which to this day still lingers with me. While her favorites were Smashing Pumpkins and Cocteau Twins, you could say she had a knack for unique vocalist. So, it was no surprise she was a huge fan of Dolores and The Cranberries.
The most vivid memory I have was our trip to Arizona when she brought several CDs for the drive. I remember looking at the cover of No Need To Argue and Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?. I loved the aesthetic of the band all sitting on a couch, looking rather intriguing. My mother had put on No Need, and the immediate striking vocals of “An Ode To My Family” took me by surprise. It was gorgeous and stunning; from the simple elegant instrumentation to her angelic Irish folk singing. The way Dolores harmonized her voice, and the pride of here Irish accent in her singing was so fresh to me. I was instantly hooked.
Later that night, my mother, her brother, and my father and I went out for a drive with the CD still playing. What was incredible to me was how both my dad and uncle were fans of a band that seemed so feminine. My young mind still had a misconception of masculinity, and I was so stunned that they liked this music. It proved something to me, that if something is good, all people will enjoy it. To this day, I’m never ashamed to admit my love for The Cranberries and other quote unquote feminine artists.
The most stunning moment of that night was when “Zombie” came on. I was hit with a force of heavy agro distorted guitar, and then, I heard the lyrics. Another first in my young life occurred; I cried hearing the pain in Dolores’ voice as she sang of the internal war in Northern Ireland. The song was raw, and captured emotion so well; to this day I still get goosebumps from it. I asked my mother what the exact lyrics were about, and she told me about the war and war in general. To that point, my only knowledge of war was of post 9/11 and the “War on Terrorism.” Basically I had little understanding, and with this song, I grew up a little bit more. That night we may have repeated that song about 10 times, and all of us reciting the lyrics over and over.
I will always remember that Arizona trip. While my mother, and that entire part of my family has left my life, I can’t help but remember the good times when I listen to No Need To Argue.
Fast forward many years into my life to my senior year. It was the strangest year of my entire high school experience. I had just ended a two and a half year relationship, yet I was unfazed by that. While it hurt, it didn’t hurt as much as what was to come. I had fallen in love with another girl who was one of my best friends, and at one point she wanted to be with me, but I was still with my ex-girlfriend at the time. After the breakup, I had wanted to be with my best friend, but it was too late. That was the beginning of my intense depression because I felt like I had lost so much in the span of several months. The worst mistake was continuing to be friends with the girl I was very much in love with, as it was torturous. There was several albums I listened to at this point in my life, and one of the albums that got through to me the most was Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?. When I had gone through a huge rediscovery of ’90s music, as I believe the ’90s have some of the greatest songwriters of all time, I was deeply invested in bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Garbage. However, the turning point came when I played that album by The Cranberries.
When “I Still Do” came on, I had just gotten to school. I hadn’t really listened to The Cranberries in awhile as my high school years were mostly punk and metal. So, I decided to go through their discography, and I fucked up. “I Still Do” made me cry. I had to go to the restroom fast, avoiding friends because of how much I related to the lyrics. Dolores’ beautiful delivery and her craftsmanship with the pen really moved me. I related so much to what she was singing, and even more so I saw a new perspective of both of the girls in my life.
I’m not ready for this
Though I thought I would be
I can’t see the future
Though I thought I could see
I don’t want to leave you
Even though I have to
I don’t want to love you
Oh… I still do
Need some time to find myself
You wouldn’t live with it
Can I go my own way?
Can I pray my own way?
I don’t want to leave you
Oh… I need you
The lyrics perfectly sandwiched me in between the two girls. My voice was the second verse, as I had that emotion towards both girls, whereas the first verse felt like my best friend, and the last verse felt like my ex-girlfriend. That song fucked me up so bad. I willowed in sorrow while I listened, however, I couldn’t stop listening. I guess it was like a dark therapeutic treatment, and after disregarding my classes that day to focus and dwell, I finally continued to the next song; a new wind took me.
“Dreams” might have been the most familiar of the songs besides “Linger,” but it had been some time since I had heard the track. “Dreams” gave me confidence again. “I Still Do” was purgatory, but “Dreams” was my light that I followed into a new day. It made me feel like I could find love again. It helped me go on the path I needed to, at least for the rest of my high school days. While my depression still echoed, I had hope for the first time in a while. The Cranberries gave me hope when I couldn’t find it anywhere else. My constant connection to Dolores’ lyrics continued as I went through her music, and both Everybody Else and No Need remain some of my favorite albums ever.
Dolores O’Riordan helped me in so many ways, and I looked up to her as an artist as well as a person. I learned a great deal from her art, and I continue to learn as I explore (and re-explore) through her music. She left us way too early, and with of all the recent artist deaths that have occurred, this one has impacted me the most. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her.
I love you Dolores, and I thank you for your music.