Dolores O'Riordan, RIP

Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, has died at age 46, and across the musical and political spectra, there is cause for mourning.

She was a stunning talent, with one of the most exquisite voices in rockdom – slightly metallic, musical as a bell, grinding, passionate, and fascinatingly Irish in accent.  Her songs and videos were as beautiful as she was: lithe, sinewy, manic, melodic.  Her lyrics were poetic and surprisingly sophisticated.  With a great band and great songs, of course she was destined to become a big rock star in the 1990s, that transition period before just rap and pop junk pretty much took over, (with a few exceptions).  Her remaining rock videos are fantastic.

Some of these, still visible on YouTube, tell us quite a bit about who she was.

This depiction of war, in her track of "Zombie," has the right intensity for describing something so awful.  Before I learned that the song was about the violence in Northern Ireland, I thought it was perhaps about a World War I soldier ruined with post-traumatic stress disorder from trench warfare.  Even if it's not, even the lyrics I can hear still fit.

O'Riordan's depiction of joy in "Stars" is just as intense.  The video depicts her in all her skinny grungy rock star glory together with her band, expressing the thrill of being in love, in the backdrop of the some of the more beautiful native scenery of Ireland.  It's as uplifting as "Zombie" is grindingly down.  The songs and videos call to mind a religious sense of joy and tragedy, and O'Riordan has said her music was influenced by her Catholicism.  However, it also highlighted a sad back note to her life – that she was manic-depressive and subject to many highs and lows.  She was likely difficult to live with, and toward the end of her life, her marriage broke up, as is common with that illness.  It's not known why she died so young, but given her condition, suicide or something self-destructive is not out of the question.  Had she ended her own life while under the grip of her illness, she wouldn't have been responsible.  That she died is just sad, because she produced such works of passion and beauty in her music.

O'Riordan was a rarity – Irish and actually Catholic, making the most intriguing theme of her work in her songs about children and family life – she had a lot of songs on the family theme.  More unique than that and unlike probably any rock star, she seemed to be pro-life, though she was inclined to withdraw from controversy.  But her song "The Icicle Melts" is believed to have been about the awfulness of abortion.  As with the World War I and Irish troubles in "Zombie," it would probably be easy to find more than one meaning in the song, but LifeNews has pointed out that she made pro-life statements and had a fascination with Pope John Paul II, whom she met.  (She was also invited to the Vatican to perform by Pope Francis.)

In any case, what else can be made of this statement?

I am in no position to judge other women, you know.  But I mean, why did she get pregnant?  It's not good for women to go through the procedure [abortion] and have something living sucked out of their bodies.  It belittles women.  Even though some women say, 'Oh, I don't mind to have one,' every time a woman has an abortion, it just crushes her self-esteem smaller and smaller and smaller.

There's reason to think she was pro-life, valued the dignity of every person, and expressed it beautifully in her art.


This one, "Animal Instinct," about not wanting to be separated from someone she loves, suggests a bit of the same theme.  The lyrics seem generic and can be read any way one wants, but the video is something else – it depicts a mother rescuing her boys from a social services agency and fleeing on the lam with them, everyone joyful at being together.  That's not only pro-life and pro-family; it's a bit libertarian.

O'Riordan's passion, intensity, beauty, and originality really were a rare thing in a world where pop music continually grinds out the same old thing.  Her music can be listened to forever.  I just wish there were more of it.  Dolores O'Riordan, RIP.

If you experience technical problems, please write to