'On stage, Dolores was in her element' - Eddie Rowley pays tribute to the singer he knew for decades
When she donned her rock gear and stomped into the spolight in her Doc Martens, Dolores O’Riordan was like an angry lioness fiercely protecting her cubs.
With her distinctive, soaring, haunting vocals, Dolores also had formidable fire-power as the lead singer of The Cranberries.
It was astonishing to watch the Irish female rock icon whip a crowd into a frenzy with her performance, and then bring them back down from their adrenaline rush, before setting off the fireworks again.
On stage, Dolores was in her element. She was a strong, confident, intimidating, larger than life character who seemed like nothing or no one could faze her. This was a performer with lots of attitude.
Meeting her for the first time, then, in the early 1990s following the success of The Cranberries’ debut album, ‘Eveybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’, was more than a little nerve-racking. I definitely felt the need to be on my game for what I thought might be a prickly, combative encounter.
To my surprise, the fierce rock queen I expected to meet when I nervously entered her dressing room was literally shaking with nerves herself.
In those early days of her career, off-stage Dolores O’Riordan had none of the swagger that made her a compelling performer. Like so many performers who are more at home on the stage than in their everyday environment, she seemed to be wracked with insecurity.
Physically, Dolores was a diminutive, fragile human being that you just wanted to hug. There was no doubt back then that she was struggling to come to terms with her literally overnight and very overwhelming status as one of the most exciting new female rock icons on the planet. Suddenly, the world’s media wanted to know her opinions on everything from the mysteries of music to the issues then dominating world politics.
I struck up a bond with Dolores that day as we chatted about her early life and times in Limerick for a feature in the Sunday World, and that warm, professional relationship continued in the interviews that followed through the decades.
In her short life, Dolores made her mark in the world with her astonishing talent as a singer and songwriter. And she revealed that the song that propelled The Cranberries to worldwide fame came from a place of heartbreak in her teenage life.
Last year, Dolores told a British newspaper that she wrote the band’s smash-hit, ‘Linger’, after being rejected by a boy at a local club in Limerick.
Dolores said: “This guy asked me to dance and I thought he was lovely. Until then, I’d always thought that putting tongues in mouths was disgusting, but when he gave me my first proper kiss, I did indeed ‘have to let it linger.’
“I couldn’t wait to see him again. But at the next disco, he walked past me and asked my friend to dance. I was devastated. Everyone saw me being dumped, publicly, at the disco. Everything’s so dramatic when you’re 17, so I poured it into a song.
“Some years later, after I was married, the guy ‘Linger’ is about wrote me a long letter saying: ‘I know the song’s about me. I never meant to hurt your feelings. Can we meet?’ I thought, ‘it’s too late, you dumped me.’ I didn’t reply.”
Dolores had tremendous highs in her life, but she also had many dark days to cope with as a result of depression and a bipolar disorder.
However, the Limerick woman brought a lot of joy into the lives of people as a member of The Cranberries, and she will live on through her music.