Longford Leader columnist Mattie Fox: Dolores O'Riordan - the Limerick girl whose talent not everyone understood

Mattie Fox


Mattie Fox



Dolores O'Riordan performing at the City of Culture celebrations in Limerick on December 31, 2013 Picture: Ken Coleman

Dolores O'Riordan performing at the City of Culture celebrations in Limerick on December 31, 2013 Picture: Ken Coleman

Dolores O’Riordan must be smiling in derision now, if such a thing is possible after death.

Many journalists, including several Irish writers, remained strangely aloof from her rural background, and her seemingly naive ways, and wrote in caustic critical terms about her when she was alive. Well of course they began to change their tune once she became famous.

Since her death I’ve been constantly struck by the irony of well-known ‘names’ who were very happy to be wheeled out by newspapers, radio, and tv all over the world.

I’m not referring to Brian Boyd, who was a genuine and true fan.
O’Riordan wasn’t nearly cool enough for most Irish journalists especially.

It took several respected journalists in the US - where open minds are the order of the day - to laud her unique ability, including Alec Foege of Rolling Stone writing in March 1995 - before certain Irish counterparts managed to start ‘seeing’ her music as something worthwhile and tangible. In the US journalists hear the music first, then learn about the performer!
I recall several (Irish) journalists asking me if I knew her.

Once they heard I did they each immediately embarked on a fact finding mission, looking for ways to sensationalise her reputation.

Ah yes. Stardom has a way of finding out the very worst in people who don’t really know one end of a music scale from the other.

The British press temporarily had a field day. John Aizlewood of Q Magazine - a British Music magazine - the lead writer of a cover story in 1996 described the British press as bigoted : “ the weekly Music press ambled Limerick-ward to paint a picture of stupid bogtrotters bemused at finding street lighting and running water”.

(In 1996 the British still had a backward view of Ireland!)
Sensationalist copy is their raison d’etre.

The inquest is awaiting results; whatever they reveal won’t make any difference to the amazingly incredible talent that was Dolores.

She was unique among the music industry professionals, in that never once was she seen to exert the slightest sense of entitlement towards anyone, or anything, relating to her work.

I knew Dolores, met her several times mostly backstage at festivals, she was a lovely, sweet and sincere person. Dolores never lost the genuine feeling of awe towards other artists, and because of that she remained grounded.

At 18 she found a job with a Limerick group called the Cranberry Saw Us by playing what became her first ‘hit’ called “Linger”. The song was “inspired by her first kiss, and then quickly getting dumped”, she told journalist Caroline Sullivan some years later.

The Cranberries, with Dolores out front became a different band.

Dolores was a very very talented writer, and the Cranberries were taken on by the former Smiths’ manager, Geoff Travis, and eventually had 32 record companies vying to sign the tiny limerick girl. The successful label Island booked them as the support act on the fast-rising band Suedes 1993 American tour.

Suede’s low common denominator subjects cut no ice in the US, but the Cranberries returned home as stars. The rest is now history.

Four months after the support tour the first Cranberries album crossed the one million mark in sales.

The first sign of Dolores’ distress was when she became forced to remain in her hotel room when touring the 17 million selling 1994 second album No Need To Argue. The second single Zombie written in response to the IRA bomb in Warrington, made her a huge global star.

From that pyramid of adulation, it was a small journey to her being affected by the world of music in a very negative way.

But always, always, she remained the local girl from Limerick, whose talent not everyone understood.

The music business, and her family have lost one of the special people, with whom anyone was blessed to meet.
Dolores O’Riordan RIP.

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