The seemingly sudden deaths of a spate of iconic musicians, including David Bowie, Prince and Tom Petty, have had fans giving the last two years the finger. Now, 2018 has suffered its first such loss: Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of Irish rock group the Cranberries.
O'Riordan was found dead in her hotel room in the Westminster neighborhood of London at 9:05 a.m. Monday. She was 46. According to a statement by her publicist, O'Riordan had been in London for a recording session. No cause of death has been released.
O'Riordan won the role of lead singer in a 1990 audition and led the Cranberries to success, penning some of their most famous songs, such as "Linger," "Dreams" and "Zombie." She played Dallas four times with the Cranberries: twice in '93, at Fair Park and Deep Ellum Live (now Canton Hall); at Bomb Factory in '94; and at Starplex in '95.
The band went on hiatus in 2003, at which point O'Riordan began performing and recording solo, but reunited six years later and was active at the time of O'Riordan's death. The Cranberries' last show was in Los Angeles on Oct. 6.
Yesterday, tributes to the singer — who was known for her political lyrics and distinctive Limerick accent — poured out on social media. More than one Dallas musician shared that the Cranberries had been their introduction to playing music.
Aaron Mireles of the post-punk band Sub-Sahara says "Zombie" was the first song he learned to play on bass. "I grew up listening to the Cranberries, and when I decided to learn bass, my friend burned me a copy of Guitar Pro 4, which had a handful of popular songs, and I noticed 'Zombie' was one of them," Mireles says. "It was pretty simple and easy to start with, so I sat down and learned the tabs."
1994's No Need to Argue was the first Cranberries CD Mireles bought, but 1996's To the Faithful Departed became his favorite. He remembers how the lyrics got him through difficult times in high school. "I must have listened to 'Sunday' and 'Hollywood' about a million times during sophomore and junior year," he says.
Like Mireles, when Observer contributor Eric Grubbs was an adolescent trying to learn the guitar, he gravitated toward the Cranberries because he was a fan of their music, and it was simple enough for someone just starting out to master. He had picked up the guitar a few years earlier but given up quickly because the songs he was shown required difficult barre chords. When he saw the Cranberries on MTV, he got the confidence to try again.
"In the 'Zombie' video, prior to the second verse, there's a shot of O'Riordan playing a basic descending pattern on the high E string. Seeing that was much more comfortable to play than a barre chord. I got out that classical guitar and figured on the lead pretty quickly," Grubbs says. "For whatever reason, the pain of playing a guitar quickly went away."
He had a similar experience when he saw the band perform "Linger" on a '95 episode of the network's Unplugged series. "'It's only four chords' describes a lot of songs that have more than four chords, but 'Linger' is literally four chords played over and over again," he says. "Seeing how simple this was for a beautiful song, D, A6, C and G became the first four chords I learned how to play."
Grubbs' primary instruments today are bass and drums, which he plays with the bands Caved Mountains and Creatures and Chemicals, but he still plays guitar. "Whenever I come up with riffs to show my bandmates, I have Dolores to thank for showing me how guitar playing doesn't have to be insanely complicated to create something worthwhile," he says.
Others who admired O'Riordan remember her for her politics as much as her music. "So many songs in To the Faithful Departed had to do with being disenfranchised from our previously held assumptions and finding renewed confidence in your own perspective," says Observer contributor David Fletcher, who remembers saving up his allowance money as a 9-year-old to buy the album at Best Buy.
"Losing her is more than just the loss of a person whose music awakened me to new music and new ways of thinking. It's losing her voice — one that always championed the poor and and downtrodden," Fletcher continues. "When I was finally old enough to understand what was going on those songs and earlier songs like 'Zombie,' I was always struck by the music's ability to report, to react and to soothe. There aren't a whole lot of musicians out there that can do all three. That kind of talent will be sorely missed."
John Schiller plays metal with Tyrannosorceress, but he, too, was influenced by the Cranberries' sound and ethics. "As a kid, it was really just the hooks and her unique voice that drew me in initially. ... When I first heard 'Zombie,' the more distorted guitars really grabbed me and kind of pushed me to seek out music on the heavier side of things. I didn't really come to grasp my favorite part of the band until I got older, when I realized they had a sociopolitical slant that I aligned with in certain songs, in addition to having very emotionally intuitive lyrics."
Kate Siamro, a curator at Spinster Records, says people are already calling and stopping by to ask for Cranberries records. But the store doesn't have any at this time. Without being "too morbid," Siamro says that she and Spinster's other buyers sometimes try to guess which musicians might die soon and prepare by buying extra inventory.
"I always feel bad if we don't have a recently deceased musician's work in stock because I want to give people that relief of hearing their music at top-notch quality," Siamro says.
The death of O'Riordan at such a young age couldn't have been predicted, but Siamro says she ordered some Cranberries last week, which should arrive at the store soon. Record labels get swamped with orders when one of their artists dies, which can cause delays, but since Spinster's had already been placed, Siamro thinks it might get first dibs.
"It's all first come, first serve, and they might run out of a pressing until given the thumbs-up to press again," she says. "What record labels will sometimes do is make compilations or new records to suffice the crowd wanting that musician or band's music."
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But not all of the people who buy Prince, Bowie or Cranberries records are grieving fans. Others, Siamro says, are purely looking to snag records they anticipate will increase in value.
"You get some coming in wanting to buy their music because they think it's worth more now that they're dead, which isn't necessarily correct," she says. "Since the Cranberries are a '90s band, their vintage vinyl is worth more than most records. Anything that was pressed in the '90s and is a first pressing can be worth quite a bit since CDs were all the rage."
Siamro, however, falls into the grieving fan category. She remembers listening to the Cranberries when she was "horribly heartbroken in high school.
"Listening to 'Linger' while wrapped up in a blanket burrito crying in bed gave me more comfort than talking to a person," she says. "So when you lose these musicians, I feel like you lose someone who got you through certain phases of your life."