Dolores O’Riordan, voice of The Cranberries, dies age 46


By now, the news of The Cranberries’ lead singer has permeated the newsfeeds of almost everyone. For audiences who grew up listening to the Irish alternative rock group, Dolores O’Riordan’s voice was a galvanizing force that gave credence to emotions that fans of a certain age experienced.

For me, news of the singer’s death came not from formal news organizations, but from social media. Various friends wrote grief-stricken sentences such as “No, not you Dolores!”

I searched my memory for mutual friends named “Dolores” that we might have had in common. When I finally figured out that it was The Cranberries’ singer that had inspired such grief, I understood.

From the first note that O’Riordan sang, audiences knew she was special, different. There are always vocalists who mean what they say. But with O’Riordan, not only did she mean it, but in the case of songs like “Zombie,” she sounded like she was still processing what happened.

The news of O’Riordan’s death has prompted a response from a man whose 12-year-old son was killed in the bombing referenced in “Zombie.” In an article at, the boy’s father reflected on the song’s lyrics and called them “majestic.” More about his take on O’Riordan’s death can be read here

Fans have responded to the singer’s passing with lists of favorite songs by The Cranberries and analysis of lyrics. Almost every article’s comment section is flooded with people responding with their idea of the best songs by the group. There is no right way to grieve anything, especially the loss of a public figure such as O’Riordan.

Beyond O’Riordan’s public persona is her voice. Her voice taught a generation of fans to listen closely and feel. The Cranberries were not the only Irish act to capture the hearts of American fans. By the time The Cranberries became famous in the early 1990s, Americans were used to the mix of political and personal songs offered by U2 and Sinead O’Connor. But O’Riordan’s lilt, her beautifully edgy soprano, catapulted over the driving alternative rock soundscape created by her bandmates and told the stories she was meant to tell, and audiences were hooked.

O’Riordan’s voice is nearly without imitation. The way her voice changed as she repeated the word “zombie” – – adding syllables, incorporating a stylized stutter, and tacking on a suffix until the word devolved into a series of harsh oh’s, ooh’s, and ah’s, transfixed her fans.

According to the Irish Times, O’Riordan was in London recording with The Cranberries who had broken up between 2003 and 2009. No word yet whether or not the project is complete enough to release to the public.

O’Riordan will be laid to rest in Limerick, The Cranberries’ hometown, the Irish Times confirms. She is survived by her ex-husband and three children.


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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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