“Unhappiness, where’s when I was young and we didn’t give a damn?
‘Cause we were raised to see life as fun and take it if we can.”
“Ode to My Family,” The Cranberries
I mentioned it on Facebook already, and I apologize to many of you if you’re finding this out this way, but Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan died suddenly today at the age of 46. Rock music has a way of taking the best way too soon. She may not have been as famous as somebody like David Bowie, or George Michael, but to me, this one really hits close to home. In a way, she was a specific part of my childhood.
Born in 1971 in Limerick, she was my first real introduction to 1990s rock and roll. Early in my childhood, I had heard certain artists, like Bob Marley, Van Morrison, and The Beatles’ Abbey Road during road trips in the car. As amazing as they were, they were all before my time. I knew what music was, and who they were, but I didn’t really feel like I knew them. The Cranberries were the first band, period, in any genre, I actually felt a generational connection with. For most of my childhood and up to my junior year in high school, they were likely my favorite band, or near the top. I pick that time because junior year was when I discovered Automatic for the People (R.E.M.) and never looked back. Still, I was always fond of The Cranberries. Their first two albums – Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (1993) and No Need to Argue (1995) – were considered their best, while their last four weren’t as strong. But you could have fooled me. Their third album, To the Faithful Departed, got a pretty tepid reception and apparently was ranked as one of the worst albums in rock on a survey. If they think so, fine. But I can’t see it. In fact, for its darker concept, lyrics, and the fact that I was ten and was able to decipher it all better, To the Faithful Departed is actually my favorite of every Cranberries album.
“Always be near me, guardian angel.
Always be near me, there’s no fear.”
And that voice. Dolores O’Riordan had one of those voices that you never forgot. I said on the first post, but I’ll say it again: to hear it was to hear beauty. She could write about anything, and had the chilling voice to boot: love, The Troubles in both sides of Ireland, her strong link to Catholicism, and how fiercely devoted she was about the welfare of children. She was a mother herself, and I’m sure she loved her children fiercely.
Her cause of death remains undisclosed. I’m not sure I want to know. It feels like it would be knowing too much to do so. Hopefully, it was as peaceful as possible, and apparently it was unexpected because she was recording in the last few days. I wish I knew what to make of it.
The reason it’s so close to home is also because it’s one of the strongest bonds I have with my own mom. For all of the problems she had in her later life, my mom was my music teacher, at least in terms of bands. Those first two albums mentioned above were a staple for the two of us (and my dad, when he would drive me) in the car on the way to nearby Unionville. For six years, I played youth league basketball there, and it became something of a tradition to listen to it on the car for practice and games, particularly in the early years. I never met Dolores O’Riordan, but I can see the motherly parallels. Some of her songs would have passed for lullabies. Her death is like losing one of my mom’s best parts all over again. It doesn’t hurt as bad as actually losing her, but it’s like a part of her legacy is gone, too, or at least will never be the same again.
While The Cranberries may have faded from many people’s memories, while they may never make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (they’d get my vote), while they may not be as legendary as The Rolling Stones or The Beatles or The Who, they were, to a degree, a way for my generation, the early millennials, to air our grievances. To me, they’ll always be legends.
I have to conclude with the title of their opening track on their opening album, the one that started it all, “I Still Do.”
“I’m not ready for this,
Though I thought I would be.
I can’t see the future,
Though I thought I could see.
I don’t want to leave you,
Even though I have to.
I don’t want to love you,
Oh, I still do.”
Rock on, Dolores. Ar imithe ach gan dearmad.
Photo courtesy of http://www.irishtimes.ie.