Dolores O'Riordan dead: 9 of the best songs by The Cranberries

Iconic frontwoman has died aged 46

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Monday 15 January 2018 19:47 GMT
Dolores O'Riordan performs with The Cranberries in Paris 1999

The death of The Cranberries’ frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan has left the music world reeling.

The Irish and international singer with one of the most instantly recognisable voices in music died suddenly aged 46, while she was in London recording a short session.

She may not have been sure about why fans and fellow artists found the band so intriguing as they started out (she had no idea why REM’s Michael Stipe turned up to watch them record a music video for their debut hit “Linger”), but few other bands are quite so synonymous with the 1990s as The Cranberries. They seemed to appear on just about every popular TV show and film of that period, from Clueless to Charmed and My So-Called Life. They sold over 40 million records around the world, and O’Riordan also released the solo records Are You Listening? and No Baggage.

From the powerful protest track ”Zombie” to the gorgeous “Linger”, here are nine of the The Cranberries’ best songs.


The most memorable Cranberries song around and one of the greatest rock tracks of all time, O’Riordan’s vocals are agonisingly beautiful thanks to her ability to convey the pain and distress in the lyrics. “Zombie” saw the band achieve international recognition with this incendiary song about the bombings in Northern Ireland in 1993, which resulted in the death of a three-year old and a 12-year-old boy.

“I remember at the time there were a lot of bombs going off in London and the Troubles were pretty bad,” O’Riordan told TeamRock in an interview. “I remember being on tour and being in the UK at the time when the child died, and just being really sad about it. These bombs are going off in random places. It could have been anyone, you know?

“It’s a tough thing to sing about, but when you’re young you don’t think twice about things, you just grab it and do it. As you get older you develop more fear and you get more apprehensive, but when you’re young you’ve no fear.”

‘Ode To My Family’

Written by O’Riordan and Noel Hogan, with a string arrangement she composed herself, this song has a completely different tone to the bitter anger of “Zombie”, and refers to O’Riordan’s parents, her childhood and the sadness of losing a simple life to the spotlight. Speaking to Hot Press magazine in 1994, she called the song “a paean to the simple old days and the warmth and security of family life”.

‘When You’re Gone’

O’Riordan had such control over her voice; those bluesy doo-wops in the intro of "When You're Gone" make the listener sway automatically from side to side in time, as she croons gently over the twang of the guitar.


Honestly, it’s astonishing when you listen back and realise quite how versatile The Cranberries were – this fast-tempo track that served as a scathing condemnation of growing drug abuse in Ireland was taken from the band’s 1996 album To the Faithful Departed, around the same time as ecstasy use reached alarming new heights. The song attracted negative media attention for appearing “preachy”, but the band told the media it was supposed to speak more against the idea of being controlled by anything or anyone.


The follow-up to “Dreams” was released in 1993 and was The Cranberries’ first big hit, helped in its rise by a US tour with the band Suede, which earned them recognition (and song rotation) from MTV. A reissue in 1994 saw the song enjoy better chart success: “Linger” scored a number three spot on the Irish charts and number eight in the US. O’Riordan said the lyrics are about a relationship that led to her “first real kiss”.


O’Riordan’s husky lilt over the steady drum beat made for one of the catchiest singles – The Cranberries’ debut – of 1992. Backing vocals were provided by Mike Mahoney, her boyfriend at the time, and would go onto feature in numerous pop culture moments including the high school TV series My So-Called Life and the film You’ve Got Mail. “Dreams” was taken from the band’s first full-length album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, which led to them becoming one of the first Irish bands since U2 to achieve success in the US.


The Cranberries were so embedded in popular culture at the time this “Zombies” B-side was released that they got a mention in the dialogue of Clueless, as well as a spot on the soundtrack, as a character complains to a teacher: “I can’t find my Cranberries CD, I gotta go to the quad before somebody snags it.”

‘Just My Imagination’

One of the best things about The Cranberries, and O’Riordan’s vocal delivery in particular, was how they switched from this fiercely dark intensity to a gorgeous, sunny disposition in a matter of song changes. On “Just My Imagination”, O’Riordan sounds delightfully whimsical, singing of “living for the love we had”. The band appeared in the season 2 episode of Charmed “She’s a Man, Baby, a Man!” where they performed the song, and would later release an acoustic version of the track on their album Something Else.

‘Animal Instinct’

O’Riordan was one of the few women fronting a rock band as the group reached the height of their fame, and wrote several tracks that stood out due to how they dealt with themes of childbirth and motherhood. The song title “Animal Instinct” refers to O’Riordan’s love for her first child, who was born during the band’s first hiatus ahead of Bury the Hatchet’s release. She suffered with severe stress and anxiety before she became pregnant, and credited her son with helping her return to music. “I found my happiness again so I started singing again,” she told the Irish Independent.

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