Saturday 19 January 2019

The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan: A diva and her demons

Ed Power on the rise and fall of The Cranberries star

Dolores O'Riordan
Dolores O'Riordan
The Cranberries
The Cranberries

Ed Power

The drama-packed life of Dolores O'Riordan appeared to take another shocking swerve yesterday as she was arrested following an alleged air-rage incident en route to Ireland.

Though the full facts have yet to be adduced, it is reported the ex-Cranberries singer (43) stamped on a flight attendant's foot and headbutted a garda (she was arrested and subsequently hospitalised).

As word filtered into the global media, O'Riordan found herself on the international front pages. It has been some time since she has been in this position: indeed, from the pinnacle of her career with The Cranberries in the 1990s, the Limerick artist has seen her fame steadily decline, with several unsuccessful solo albums and a Cranberries comeback which, albeit highly lucrative, failed to capture the public imagination.

By her own admission, O'Riordan has struggled with demons. She found the spotlight a difficult place to be and, at the zenith of The Cranberries' popularity, suffered anxiety and depression. A country girl from a small town in Limerick, nothing in her upbringing had prepared her for the madness of global celebrity. Through the 90s and early 2000s her every gesture and statement was ruthlessly parsed for subtext. Had she found love? Were The Cranberries breaking up? On and on it went.

"I'm an extreme person,'' she told this writer, while promoting her second solo LP in 2009. "I don't get the grey areas. Either I'm extremely up or I'm extremely down. I use songwriting to deal with the mental stuff I've going on."

There was a lot to deal with. As The Cranberries turned supernova with hits such as 'Linger' and 'Zombie', she became worryingly thin, her weight plunging to just six stone. Friends were concerned: Dolores, always the trooper, kept her head down and pushed on, even if it might have been wiser to pause and take stock.

"When you have that sort of fame, you are bigger than your own self," she recalled in another interview. "I thought I was indestructible. It was only later, when I saw pictures of myself, that I realised how terrible I looked." She added: "Fame is weird. You're just trying to be normal, but then you find yourself in the darkness."

An amateur psychologist might wonder if the seeds of her unhappiness weren't sewn in her childhood. She grew up in highly modest circumstances, in a household where her mother was the breadwinner, her father having suffered brain damage in an accident two years prior to Dolores' birth.

"We have the best relationship now, but he had been emotionally absent when I was growing up," she said of her father several years before his death in 2011. "The car accident made him that way, but at the time I couldn't see that."

She was sexually abused between the ages of eight and 12, something she did not publicly address for many years.

"I see this as cleansing," she said, explaining her decision to open up about the abuse in 2013. "It is a way of emptying that closet - no more skeletons. Just peace and healing. No baggage. There is a great sense of a great burden off my shoulders."

Professionally, the Limerick artist has seen her fame steadily decline, with The Cranberries going on hiatus in 2004 (they reformed in 2010, with nothing like their early success). Though a popular judge on RTE's The Voice, she stepped down from the gig after a single season (and is replaced by the pop tag-team of Una Foden and Rachel Stevens).

Still, in recent years, O'Riordan seemed to have outgrown the unhappiness she experienced as a young woman. Based in Canada since 2007, she found comfort in a stable domestic life.

Married to former Duran Duran tour manager Don Burton, she had three kids - Taylor (19), Molly (13) and Dakota (nine) - and flourished in motherhood.

"You don't take things as seriously," she told me in 2009. "What might have once been very serious is now sort of like water off a duck's back. You lighten up a lot when you have children.

"They're a tremendous help. If you're sad, they'll help you come around. As you get older, you learn how to live with your baggage. You chill out a bit."

Irish Independent

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