Where I am from, Dolores O’Riordan was the only rock star that mattered, because she was just like us. And then she wasn’t.
She proved that the world knew where we were, and that raw talent could do it for you.
She was one of the biggest rock stars in the world, and she grew up just a few miles away. Every word she sang in that incredible voice had an edge, frayed by the accent she proudly retained. It was an audacious thing to do in an era of Americana, made more daring by the fact that she was from Limerick, not Dublin.
Whoever heard of a rock star from Limerick? We did, now.
We all had a story about Dolores. The proximity was intoxicating. A teenage friend sold her a cone in the local shop; my Dad folded her buggy once in a Limerick carpark. He came home from work that day with an autograph for me. When I lent To The Faithful Departed to a boy I fancied, I spent a week freaking out that he would lose – or steal – the autograph hidden in the sleeve notes.
Dolores – the whole county was on first name terms, because she was the local millionaire long before the other Dolores – had a mansion and security people and, it was rumoured, a swimming pool and a recording studio. We were overwhelmed with the glamour of her and the cheek of her too, getting married in a net curtain and not giving a damn. It was all so rock and roll and it was just what we expected from our own bona fide rockstar.
You wouldn’t dare put the Cranberries in the same box as Riverdance, but it was all part of a proud cultural reclamation of Irishness – new and different types of Irishness to add to the tired old stereotypes of West of Ireland sean nós and bearded Dublin folksters.
That Limerick accent and her incredible ability to express the world of pain in a few syllables are a staple of radio playlists from Bilbao to Boston and every time I have heard the Cranberries played abroad I have been jolted back home by the ferocious pride I feel.
Dolores O’Riordan, the shy girl who couldn’t look at the audience at the beginning of her career, was everything we could be but would never dare. Her work was a showcase of and a balm for open wounds. Linger was the soundtrack to teenage heartbreak and Zombie was the rage song to get us back on track.
Dolores O’Riordan was the real deal. May she rest in peace.
The Herald, 16.01.18