Sharleen Spiteri. Gwen Stefani. Shirley Manson. Nina Persson. Dolores O'Riordan.
At the height of their global acclaim in the 1990s, all five of these women fronted their own respective bands—Texas, No Doubt, Garbage, The Cardigans, and The Cranberries. Excusing the lead singers, the rest of these groups’ lineups were rounded out by men. The female-piloted rock band was nothing new in the decade in which these acts came to prominence. But the fierce creative autonomy of Spiteri, Stefani, Manson, Persson and O'Riordan would go on to reset the existing standard of women-led rock & roll groups.
Drawing The Cranberries story into focus, the first configuration formed in Limerick, Ireland in 1989. Comprised of Fergal Lawler (drums), Niall Quinn (vocals), and brothers Mike (bass guitar) and Noel (lead guitar) Hogan, they found themselves knocked down from a quartet to a trio upon Quinn's exit. Quickly, the three started up a search for a new singer, via magazine advertisements, which brought them into contact with lyricist, rhythm guitarist and singer Dolores O'Riordan. Their personal and artistic chemistry was immediate. Suddenly, The Cranberries crawl toward their inexorable stardom took on a spirited gait.
From 1993 to 2001, the four-piece released five studio 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). Off the back of these five long players, The Cranberries became the most commercially successful band to come out of Ireland since U2. Between the five sets, the singles were plentiful, but it was “Dreams,” “Linger” and “Zombie” that shaped a sizable portion of the soundtrack to the 1990s. Instantly identifiable, The Cranberries’ sound was an equally hushed and raucous alternative pop-rock blend fueled by O'Riordan's unique singing style, which could dovetail from understated to prophetic.
In 2003, all four members agreed to take an extended—and deserved—hiatus. During this period, O'Riordan made the most of it by developing her own niche of guitar pop with two accomplished solo recordings in 2007’s Are You Listening? and 2009’s No Baggage. While neither set fire to the charts, they performed fairly well critically and allowed her to establish a separate following outside of The Cranberries.
O'Riordan went on to reunite with the Hogans and Lawler for Roses in 2012 which saw The Cranberries make an excellent return to the global stage. And though it took five years for Something Else (2017) to materialize, it showed that the group's stirring brand of pop was as vibrant as it had ever been. In between those two records, O'Riordan had branched out again with another side project, D.A.R.K., where she had paired with Olé Koretsky and Andy Rourke (of The Smiths).
Singer. Songwriter. Musician. Mother. Icon. O'Riordan was all of these things and more, her life seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of her. No one could have fathomed O'Riordan's passing at the age of 46 earlier this week, an absolutely crushing loss. In times like these, it's normal to turn to the music of the departed to reminisce and mourn. Yes, Dolores O'Riordan's music teems with life and it's there where one can learn the best way to honor her memory—seize the moment and live life to the fullest. It was something she was known for doing.