Dolores had a way of drawing you in through her voice, with Irish accent fully and proudly displayed. The way she would flip between the ethereal float of her higher notes and the dignified depth of her lower register; in those breaks you could hear a measured power and a vulnerability that set The Cranberries apart from other '90s rock bands.
But what really gets to the heart of O'Riordan as an artist is the story of her audition for The Cranberries — she was just 18 years old when she heard about a loud band of guys looking to replace their lead singer. The day of her audition, one of the band's founders, guitarist Noel Hogan, gave her a cassette tape with some instrumental tracks. O'Riordan came back a week later having adapted one of them into this incredibly personal song about heartbreak and rejection - "Linger."
When O'Riordan sang it for the first time, she said, "The guitars were so loud... I don't think they ever really heard the lyrics until we made the demo." But rather than getting louder to meet those guitars, or covering up the vulnerability she had as a songwriter to fit in, she told the story she had to tell, in the voice she was gifted. "Linger," of course, became a huge hit. That bravery, confidence and artistic vision are what made Dolores such a trailblazer and an inspiration.
The pride of Limerick, Ireland, O'Riordan led the Cranberries for 13 years, starting in 1990. She joined them again in 2009 after taking a break for solo work. Dolores visited the World Cafe in the summer of 2007, just after releasing her first solo album that May. She performed Cranberries classics "Linger" and "Dreams" and spoke to David Dye about growing up in the spotlight.
You can hear her session in the player above.