Dolores O’Riordan, longtime frontwoman of the Irish alt-rock band the Cranberries, has died, as the BBC reports. O’Riordan was in London to record vocals on the hard rock band Bad Wolves’ cover of “Zombie,” and was found dead this morning at the Hilton on Park Lane. No cause of death has been revealed yet; a rep said only that she died “suddenly” while London’s Metropolitan Police force said the death was being treated as “unexplained.” O’Riordan was 46.
O’Riordan grew up in County Limerick, Ireland, and she was 19 when she auditioned to become the replacement singer the Cranberry Saw Us, a band whose singer had just quit. The band changed its name to the Cranberries, released an early 1991 indie EP called Uncertain, and signed with Island.
Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, the band’s 1993 debut album, was a lovely and lilting piece of folk-rock, a more radio-friendly gloss on what other UK bands like the Sundays were doing at the time. The best thing about them was O’Riordan’s voice, high and keening and expressive. With her strong Irish accent, she was capable of singing wordlessly and still cutting deeply, as she did on “Dreams,” the band’s earliest single. Both “Dreams” and the swirling ballad “Linger,” the first song that O’Riordan wrote with the group, became sensations on MTV and on radio on both sides of the Atlantic. The album sold five million copies in America.
The band toughened and darkened their sound with their next album, 1994’s No Need To Argue. On “Zombie,” the driving and catchy lead single, O’Riordan sang about violence in Ireland. The album sold even faster than the debut, moving seven million copies in the US. But the band’s next three albums gradually sold less and less, and after releasing 2001’s Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, they went on hiatus. O’Riordan released two solo albums, 2007’s Are You Listening? and 2009’s No Baggage. She also had three kids.
O’Riordan reunited with the Cranberries in 2009 and released the reunion album Roses in 2012. In 2014, she also formed a new band called D.A.R.K. with former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke; they released an album called Science Agrees in 2016. Last year, the Cranberries released Something Else, an album that mostly consisted of older songs with new orchestral arrangements. But they cancelled a number of tour dates last year because O’Riordan was suffering from back problems. Just last month, Eminem rapped over a sample of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” on his new album Revival.
As mentioned on the Cranberries’ Facebook last month, O’Riordan made what turned out to be her final public performance at the holiday party for this website’s parent company, the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group, on 12/14/17 in NYC. You can watch a clip of that 3-song set, for which O’Riordan was backed by Saved By The 90s, below.
Below, watch a few of the Cranberries’ music videos.
UPDATE: O’Riordan’s Cranberries bandmates have released this statement:
We are devastated on the passing of our friend Dolores. She was an extraordinary talent and we feel very privileged to have been part of her life from 1989 when we started the Cranberries. The world has lost a true artist today.
Noel, Mike and Fergal
And Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has tweeted this tribute:
For anyone who grew up in Ireland in the 1990s, Dolores O’Riordan was the voice of a generation. As the female lead singer of a hugely successful rock band, she blazed a trail and might just have been Limerick’s greatest ever rock star. RIP.
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) January 15, 2018