Dolores O’Riordan, The Cranberries, and the Soundtrack of My Youth



Dolores O’Riordan died last week in a hotel in London.

She was 46 years old.

As the lead singer of The Cranberries, her death hits me harder than the recent deaths of ‘80s rock icons Prince, David Bowie and George Michael.

While yes – I hold an unabashed love for Prince, and George Michael’s Faith wore out the boom box in my bedroom, those 1980s artists belonged more to my older sister than to me.

The Cranberries, however, were mine.


1993 – I’m 15, and Jon Arthur calls me into his room. He’s a 20-something computer programmer who rented a room in our house.

“Peter – come listen to this,” he said, as the strains of Zombie came from his CD player. “It’s this new band called The Cranberries. Don’t they have just the cleanest sound?”

As a drummer, I knew my music, and he was right – whoever this band was  — with the distinctively Irish lilt to the lead singer’s voice…

They just sounded professional – clean.


1994 – I’m 16, and in Dublin, Ireland as part of the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage – a three-week tour of historical Quaker religious sites in Ireland and England, with two dozen other youth from Europe and the Americas.

And The Cranberries were part of the soundtrack to that summer.

The UK radio stations were playing a few other songs and groups – Four Non-Blondes’ What’s Going On?  And Ace of Base’s well…everything.

We all saw the sign that summer, as we traveled from Dublin, Ireland to Yealand, England, from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Cumbria, England.

But The Cranberries?

Contrary to their lyrics, their sound did linger…


1997 – I’m a sophomore at Guilford College down in North Carolina.

I’m living in a campus house that year – there were seven of us total – split between men and women.

And one of my housemates used a particular Cranberries CD as her proverbial “sock on the door.”

It was her signal to us not to disturb her, as it meant she and her boyfriend were enjoying each other’s company.

One of my favorite quotes from that year?

Another housemate barging into our living room, exasperated:

“You guys…they play The Cranberries a lot!”


I have little to add by way of lessons in branding or marketing from the arc of The Cranberries’ success.

I could run through the stats – starting with 7 records, 40 million albums sold, multi-platinum international success and a core staple of 1990s pop…

But that’s not the point.

The point?

I never did get to see The Cranberries in concert.

And honestly, though it pains me to admit it, I preferred Sinead O’Connor’s voice to that of Dolores O’Riordan’s.

But this evening, I’m raising a glass to her.

Because her voice – and her band’s music – provided the soundtrack to my childhood.

And for that, I’m grateful.

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