One of the most striking things about reading the tributes to and tweets about Dolores O'Riordan since news of her untimely death broke yesterday was the number of people who felt her voice was intrinsically tied to certain periods of their lives. More than one tweet proclaimed 'The Cranberries were the soundtrack to my teens' or 'Dolores O'Riordan's voice will always remind me of my college years'. It was hard not to be affected by her instrument; whether you loved it or hated it, it incited a reaction.
Full disclosure: I was never a massive Cranberries fan. I was a little too young and my taste in music a bit too immature when they were at their peak - but you didn't have to be a fan to know all the words to 'Linger', or 'Dreams', or 'Zombie'. Growing up in Ireland in the '90s, those songs were all over the radio, all of the time. We were not only proud that this quartet from Limerick were one of the biggest rock bands in the world, but that they were fronted by this badass, don't-give-a-fuck, non-conforming young woman that was a little bit intimidating, but also just so fucking... cool.
As someone said on Twitter, it's easy to forget just how huge they were in places like America in the 1990s. Indeed, I'll always remember my first foray into attempting to learn guitar around the age of 10, sitting in a dusty classroom of the local secondary school on a Saturday morning as the teacher encouraged us to clumsily strum the chords of 'Linger'. It was a song with such a simple structure, but one with a golden, timeless kind of feel to it.
That's the thing: my god, they – and particularly she, as lyricist - wrote some fantastic songs, songs that have aged beautifully and still stand up over two decades later. 'Dreams' remains one of the greatest Irish songs of all time. Yet more importantly, O'Riordan was the key ingredient that made those songs truly special; that voice, bristling with emotion, was unlike anything you'd heard before, or most likely will hear again. It was a primal shriek that unnerved you on the fiery judder of 'Zombie' (a song that spawned a generation of inferior karaoke covers) yet was also capable of lulling you into a reverie on the likes of 'Ode to My Family' or 'When You're Gone'. And she was so bloody young; she was just 21 when their first album was released. She was still only 23 when 'No Need to Argue' was released and she bossed their appearance on Letterman. 23. It's really quite remarkable.
Who sang like her before? Who has been comparable to her since? In a world that has become increasingly difficult to uncover originality and uniqueness in music, her voice stood out like this weird, wonderful, otherworldly beacon. She was one of a kind, no doubt.
In recent years, she had been in the media for her struggles with mental health issues, specifically her bipolar disorder diagnosis in recent years and her battle with depression. There's no point in glossing over that: it is what it is and there is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed about it. But it doesn't change the fact that 46 is no age - or that while there have been some tragic deaths of young musicians over the past year in particular, this one seems particularly sad. Maybe it's because she was one of our own.
Rest in peace, Dolores.