R.I.P. Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, gone at 46

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Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries | photo by Amarvudol | via Wikimedia Commons

Irish singer and songwriter Dolores O’Riordan — the singular voice at the front of alternative-era favorites The Cranberries — has passed away in London at age 46.

According to a BBC report, O’Riordan was in London for a recording session; a statement from the band’s publicist said “Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

O’Riordan joined The Cranberries in 1990 — brothers Mike and Noel Hogan formed an early version of the band in Limerick, Ireland, and auditioned O’Riordan to be a singer after previous vocalists did not work out. She auditioned by writing lyrics to demos the band was working on, including “Linger,” the song that would become the band’s first major hit.

Originally released on the Nothing Left At All cassette EP, the song helped steer the band’s 1993 debut LP Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We into a gradual international success, along with the powerful opening number “Dreams.” That song famously closed with a wordless, indelible melody sung by O’Riordan and her then-partner Mike Mahoney, the last 20 seconds of it sung in a moving a cappella — a riveting performance by the frontwoman that was unconventional in the heavy rock era of MTV and alternative radio, but it also stood out amid the fray for that exact reason. The song went on to peak at number 15 in the U.S. alternative charts, with “Linger” at number 4 and the album at number 18 in the Billboard 200.

The band followed the album with a steady string of releases — the decidedly heavier No Need to Argue in 1994, led by the crushing and politically-tinged single “Zombie,” as well as 1996’s more pop-oriented To the Faithful Departed, led by the modern rock radio hits “Salvation” and “Free to Decide.”

The band sold 40 million albums over an eight year span, but after 2001’s Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, decided to part ways. O’Riordan worked on collaborative recording projects and appeared in films, playing a wedding singer in the 2006 Adam Sandler comedy Click. In 2007, O’Riordan released her solo debut Are You Listening?, led by the single “Ordinary Day”; she appeared on NPR’s World Cafe with David Dye that year to talk about the record and play music from it, as well as classics from The Cranberries.

The band reunited in 2011 to record its sixth album, Roses, which was released the following year on Cooking Vinyl; a compilation called Something Else, released last year, collected unplugged and orchestral versions of some of the band’s hits, as well as three new  and unreleased songs. The band was scheduled to go on a U.S. tour in support of the album last fall, but it wound up being cancelled — including its date at The Fillmore Philadelphia.

O’Riordan and The Cranberries’ final local performance was at the Electric Factory in 2009; watch “Salvation” performed live at that show below.

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