Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Irish alternative band the Cranberries, died Monday in London. She was 46.
The band confirmed O’Riordan’s death in a brief statement, “Irish and international singer Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly in London today. She was 46 years old. The lead singer with the Irish band The Cranberries was in London for a short recording session.”
The statement continued, “No further details are available at this time. Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
No cause of death was revealed. The Irish Times notes that the Cranberries were forced to cancel tour dates in 2017 due to O’Riordan’s ill health; the band cited “medical reasons associated with a back problem.” O’Riordan had previously been diagnosed as bi-polar.
President of Ireland Michael Higgins said in a statement, “It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Dolores O’Riordan, musician, singer and song writer. Dolores O’Riordan and The Cranberries had an immense influence on rock and pop music in Ireland and internationally. I recall with fondness the late Limerick TD Jim Kemmy’s introduction of her and The Cranberries to me, and the pride he and so many others took in their successes. To all those who follow and support Irish music, Irish musicians and the performing arts her death will be a big loss.”
The Kinks’ Dave Davies tweeted, “I’m really shocked that #DoloresORiordan has passed so suddenly. I was talking to her a couple weeks before Christmas she seemed happy and well – we even spoke about maybe writing some songs together – unbelievable god bless her.”
Born in Limerick, Ireland as the youngest in a family of seven children, O’Riordan auditioned to become singer of the Smiths-inspired band The Cranberry Saw Us, formed by brothers Noel and Mike Hogan, in 1990. As lead singer of the Cranberries, O’Riordan fronted what Rolling Stone said in 1995 was “Ireland’s biggest musical export since U2.”
The alternative rock quartet released their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? – which spawned the singles “Dreams” and “Linger” – in early 1993. After initially failing to make an impact upon release, “Linger” entered heavy rotation on MTV in late 1993, eventually climbing to Number Eight on the Billboard Hot 100. “Dreams” was similarly successful upon re-release.
“I know exactly what every song on that album was about,” O’Riordan told Rolling Stone in 1995 of writing Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, which explored “a young woman’s painful failures as an adolescent and her subsequent rebirth as a young adult.” “And I know exactly what night I wrote it on and why I wrote it. And I’m kind of proud of them because they do elaborate very much how I felt at that time.”
The Cranberries quickly followed up the multi-platinum success of Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? with 1994’s No Need to Argue, another worldwide bestseller that boasted the hit lead single “Zombie,” a political rocker about a young child killed in a terror attack. At the height of their fame, the Cranberries also appeared on Saturday Night Live and headlined their own MTV Unplugged concert. Over the course of their career, the Cranberries would sell over 40 million albums worldwide.
Stephen Street, who produced Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? and No Need to Argue, tweeted Monday, “I have just heard the new regarding #DoloresORiordan I need a little time to process what has happened. Suffice to say, I am very sad to lose someone who meant so much to me and to many people across the world. RIP my songbird.”
1996’s To the Faithful Departed yielded two more hits, “Salvation” and “When You’re Gone,” before the band’s popularity began to recede. The Cranberries went on hiatus following the release of 2001’s Wake Up and Smell the Roses. O’Riordan embarked a solo career in 2007 with the album Are You Listening? and, in 2016, formed the band D.A.R.K. with the Smiths’ Andy Rourke.
The Cranberries reunited in 2009, resulting in 2012’s Roses and their latest album, 2017’s Something Else. However, plans to tour in support of the album were cancelled following O’Riordan’s medical issues.
“‘Linger’ was the first song I wrote after joining the Cranberries. I was 18, and the youngest member of the band was 16 at the time,” O’Riordan told Rolling Stone in 2017, when the Cranberries released an acoustic version of the single for Something Else. “We never imagined it’d be such a big hit.”
Late Late Show host James Corden tweeted following news of O’Riordan’s death, “I once met Delores O’Riordan when I was 15. She was kind and lovely, I got her autograph on my train ticket and it made my day. She had the most amazing voice and presence. So sorry to hear that she’s passed away today.”
Foster the People wrote, “Shocked and heartbroken over Dolores O’Riordan’s death. The Cranberries were pinnacle in showing me that it was possible to fully embrace masculine and feminine energy in one cohesive sound. She was a true pioneer.”