At 46 years old, Dolores O'Riordan has this physical status:
In 1989, brothers Mike (bass) and Noel (guitar) Hogan formed the Cranberry Saw Us with drummer Fergal Lawler and singer Niall Quinn, in Limerick, Ireland. Less than a year later, Quinn left the band. He then told the remaining members that his girlfriend knew a girl who was looking for a band playing original material.
In mid-1990, on a Sunday afternoon, O'Riordan and Quinn came to the band's rehearsal room, Noel Hogan later recalled that "Niall came up with Dolores on that Sunday and I remember she was shy, very soft-spoken. Not the Dolores that everyone grew to know. And she comes in and we're just kind of a gang of young guys sitting around the place. It must have been very, very intimidating for her". O'Riordan sang a couple of songs that she had written and she also did a Sinéad O'Connor song, "Troy". The band was impressed and gave her a cassette with instrumentals, asking her if she could work on it. When she returned with a rough version of "Linger", she was hired. Hogan told Rolling Stone that "the minute she sang, you know, it was like your jaw drops at her voice. Dolores was musically far superior to me, because she had been doing it all her life".
O'Riordan was still a student at Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ secondary school when she first joined the band. She had set her sights on the musical life and her desire to be in "a band with no barriers, where I could write my own songs", she told The Guardian in 1995. At the time, she was doing her Leaving Certificate. However, the academic study did not hold much interest for her—although her marks in school were good. As a result, O'Riordan left school without any qualifications.
The Cranberries recorded demo tapes, including Nothing Left at All, a three-track EP released on tape by local record label Xeric Records, which sold 300 copies. The owner of Xeric Studios, Pearse Gilmore, became their manager and provided the group with studio time to complete another demo tape, which he produced. It featured early versions of "Linger" and "Dreams", which were sent to record companies in the UK. This demo gained attention from both the UK press and record industry, and sparked a bidding war between record labels. Eventually, the group signed with Island Records. The group changed their name to "The Cranberries" and released a four-track EP, Uncertain.
By then, O'Riordan experienced difficult touring conditions with low-income, sleeping on people's floors and in cramped vans across Ireland and UK. Furthermore, she had to overcome her shyness at the time during the early live performances with the Cranberries, singing "with her back to the audience". Lawler recalled, "we just went up, and we had six songs. Dolores was turned to the side; Noel, Mike and I had our heads down". At this stage, she had spent eight years with classical piano, and had played the harmonium in her church for ten years. O'Riordan had been rapidly gaining international attention after the release of the Cranberries' first album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?. It contained the group's most successful singles, "Dreams" and "Linger", which charted at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 when she was only 22.
Early in 1994, O'Riordan injured her cruciate ligament in a ski accident in the Alps' Val-d'Isère and underwent major surgery. In September 1994, the Cranberries released "Zombie", the lead single of the follow-up album, No Need To Argue. The song reached No. 1 of Triple J's Hottest 100, which was the first time ever that a female-led band had topped Australia's biggest song poll. She stood alone in the countdown's history for sixteen years. In terms of female-fronted acts, O'Riordan still remains one of only two women to sing on a No. 1 song on the Hottest 100 ranking [as of 2020]. She reached her commercial peak with No Need to Argue, the top-selling album worldwide in the first semester of 1995, and the world's best selling album of the year by a European artist. The album produced the songs "Ode to My Family", "I Can't Be with You", "Ridiculous Thoughts" and the group's biggest international hit, "Zombie", which topped singles charts in several countries. Dan Weiss of Billboard stated that the song "Zombie", "could crush an entire room with the combined largesse of O'Riordan's ocean-swallowing voice". By this time, within the release of the first two albums of the Cranberries with accompanying tours, O'Riordan had achieved both success and celebrity status.
Eventually, O'Riordan had disengaged from Sinéad O'Connor due to the analogy made between them in the press. O'Riordan rejected and "loathed" the comparison, saying "[w]hat I do is so different. ... I might have been singing before she ever sang—who knows? It's not like I'm not going to sing because somebody from up the road got there first because she was a few years older than me." Her leg injury recurred unexpectedly and led to cancellation of the three concerts scheduled in Ireland for December 1994. This resulted in a press backlash, while the audience was more understanding, as O'Riordan had mentioned that the concerts were not cancelled but postponed until June 1995.
She has been recognised as a style icon, sporting a pixie cut or buzzed hair in the 1990s, and performing barefoot, saying "it just feels comfortable and honest to pull your toes along the ground". Billboard's William Goodman described O'Riordan performing "Barefoot and strutting onstage, an Irish warrior poet with a bleached blonde pixie cut, gold chain necklace, singing without a flinch, as if it were ordained". The New York Times mentioned that O'Riordan was responsible for a large portion of Dr. Martens boots sales in the 1990s.
After attending a concert of the Cranberries at London's Royal Albert Hall in January 1995, author Alec Foege described O'Riordan as "part Audrey Hepburn, part David Bowie". On 23 March 1995, O'Riordan appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. On 12 September 1995, O'Riordan performed "Ave Maria" along with Luciano Pavarotti in his Pavarotti & Friends series of benefit concerts, entitled Together for the Children of Bosnia, which raised funds for War Child and the children of Bosnia, held in Modena, Italy. Princess Diana, who attended the live performance, told O'Riordan that the song brought her to tears. During the show, O'Riordan performed "Linger" as a duet with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran.
The Cranberries' third album, To the Faithful Departed debuted at number two in the UK, and number four in the US, with the singles "Free to Decide", "When You're Gone" and "Hollywood". It also featured the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number-one single "Salvation". Halfway through the Free To Decide World Tour 1996–97 promoting To the Faithful Departed, O'Riordan and the Cranberries canceled the remaining dates announcing that they would take time off in 1997. While the group claimed that "exhaustion" was the result of an extensive touring schedule, pressure from managers—and press intrusion, suspicions and rumours from the press indicated "O'Riordan's health has deteriorated". O'Riordan publicly told Irish Examiner, "I was very depressed and I was extremely anorexic on that record, and as it came out I got progressively worse". O'Riordan was the one who made the decision to take a break, although their management and record company "went mental", the rest of the group supported her. Stephen Street later said that "perhaps she could have tempered her behavior and been more measured, but that wasn't her way."
On 12 November 1998, Dolores O'Riordan and Fergal Lawler presented the award for Best Song at the MTV Europe Music Awards, in Milan, Italy. On 11 December 1998, she performed live with the Cranberries at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert at Oslo Spektrum, Oslo, Norway.
With the Cranberries she released Bury the Hatchet, which showcased a maturity of the group's sound. The album peaked at number one on both the Canadian Albums Chart, and on the European Top 100 Albums, but did not match the commercial success of the group's first two albums. The world tour has been her biggest ever, which started in April 1999 and lasted until July 2000.
Bury the Hatchet was quickly followed by her fifth effort with the group, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, released on 22 October 2001. On 15 December 2001, O'Riordan performed solo in the Vatican as part of the annual Vatican Christmas concert (Concerto di Natale) for Pope John Paul II. She sang "Analyse", "Panis angelicus", "Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night" with a 67-piece orchestra accompanying all artists. The show was broadcast to well over 200 million people around the world.
On 7 February 2002, O'Riordan and the Cranberries announced in Dublin that they donated all the proceeds from their single "Time Is Ticking Out" to the Chernobyl Children's Project. She was accompanied at the Clarence Hotel by Ali Hewson, and its founder and executive director, Adi Roche. O'Riordan wrote and recorded the song in spring 2001 after seeing images shared with her by Hewson and Roche of children born with congenital anomalies and illnesses caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 26 April 1986. O'Riordan explained, "I had just given birth to my second child, a beautiful healthy little girl. [ ... ] I had spoken with Ali on the subject before this, but I was so moved, almost to tears, that I wrote Time Is Ticking Out". On 14 December 2002 she received a second invitation to perform at the Vatican Christmas concert. O'Riordan sang "Linger", "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and "Adeste Fideles". Dolores was supported by the Millennium Symphony Orchestra on the three songs, directed by Renato Serio, and also by the Summertime Gospel Choir on "Adeste Fideles".
In June 2003, O'Riordan met AC/DC singer Brian Johnson when the Cranberries were playing concerts with AC/DC and the Rolling Stones on the latest leg of their Licks World Tour, and they considered the idea of working together. In mid-July 2003, the two friends started collaborating on material for a project that should have been the rock opera version of Helen Of Troy, based on the Greek mythology—with "rousing anthems, tender ballads and minimal dialogue". Johnson said he's been working on it for about seven years and that the musical to which O'Riodan would lend her voice was expected to feature many artists. The $1.2 million production was initially to debut in March 2003 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Florida. However, despite the pronouncement, the project was adjourned and Johnson expected it to be completed in late 2003 so that it could be played in London.
In 2003, the band decided to take a temporary time-out to experiment with solo projects.
O'Riordan stated she had become a prisoner of her own celebrity and did not find a balance in her life. In The Independent, O'Riordan said she needed time not only to focus on her family and health but also on her solo career. She enjoyed being treated "like any ordinary person" living in Canada, and then became a volunteer at her children's school.
In 2003, O'Riordan recruited Canadian music producer Dan Brodbeck and musicians to develop new compositions for her solo project. Among them was drummer Graham Hopkins, whom O'Riordan said she "loved for his energy". Also included bassist Marco Mendoza, who had been a long time friend with O'Riordan and her husband; while Mendoza's father was a good friend of O'Riordan's father-in-law. As well as Steve DeMarchi as the main guitarist, who used to do live sessions with the Cranberries, along with his brother Denny DeMarchi who played keyboards and guitars for the band in the early 2000s. Brodbeck stated that their hiring was "100 per cent based on personalities clicking and musical tastes". DeMarchi brothers' family had long been friends with Dolores O'Riordan's husband and their three children. In a Canadian newspaper, Denny DeMarchi described that she was "a perfectionist on tour"; occasionally during the show, she would turn to her musicians and canceled a particular song "in the moment". Although the technical crew was frustrated because they had to make various changes, understanding prevailed, saying that "she was emotionally not able to go there". As described by DeMarchi, "[f]or her, singing wasn't just something to deliver... it was a real experience."
On 6 March 2004, she performed "Ave Maria" during the 54th International Song Festival at the Ariston Theater, Sanremo, in northern Italy. On 29 May 2004, O'Riordan performed during the first concert of the Festivalbar, in Milan, Italy. In 2004, she appeared with the Italian artist Zucchero on the album Zu & Co., with the song "Pure Love". The album also featured other artists such as Sting, Sheryl Crow, Luciano Pavarotti, Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Macy Gray and Eric Clapton. In 2004, O'Riordan worked with composer Angelo Badalamenti of Twin Peaks fame on the Evilenko soundtrack, providing vocals on several tracks, including "Angels Go to Heaven", the film's theme song. Badalamenti later said that "she's a wonderful lyricist with an edge to her voice".
In 2005, she appeared on the Jam & Spoon's album Tripomatic Fairytales 3003 as a guest vocalist on the track "Mirror Lover". On 3 December 2005, O'Riordan made her third appearance at the Vatican's annual Christmas concert, where she performed "War Is Over", "Linger" and "Adeste Fideles" in duet with Italian tenor Gian Luca Terranova.
In April 2006, O'Riordan signed a contract with Ciulla Management, based in Sherman Oaks, California. Prematurely before the release of her first solo album, the former Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson mentor Tony Ciulla became her manager. She made a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler comedy Click, released on 23 June 2006, as a wedding singer performing an alternate version of the Cranberries' "Linger", set to strings. On 9 December 2006 she would be invited at the Vatican Christmas concert who took place in Monte Carlo, as the concert which was to be held at the Vatican was canceled by the Pope Benedict XVI. She sang "Angel Fire" from her forthcoming solo album with an orchestra and Steve DeMarchi, also "Away in a Manger" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". Since she had no label at the time, her husband Don Burton stated that they decided to go with an indie, and therefore, not continue with UMG during her hiatus. In December 2006, Sanctuary Records signed O'Riordan for a solo record deal; of their recently signed artist, Julian Wall of Sanctuary Records noted that "Dolores comes to us with an immense international CV".
The music video for "Ordinary Day", directed by Caswell Coggins, was filmed in Prague, in February 2007. Are You Listening? was released in May 2007. The album entered and peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums ranking, and number 77 on the Billboard 200. "Ordinary Day" was its first single, released in late April, and was produced by BRIT Awards winner, Martin "Youth" Glover, whose previous credits included the Verve, Embrace, Primal Scream, U2 and Paul McCartney. In August "When We Were Young" was released as the second single from the album. Colm O'Hare of Hot Press averred that O'Riordan could have chosen to exploit the underlying sonorities of the Cranberries on Are you Listening? to keep her devotees waiting until the reunion, but instead, "she's done something far more ambitious by releasing this multi-layered collection of songs that traverses styles and genres". At that time, the couple split their time between Dublin and her husband's native Canada "surrounded by bears, wolves and all that great outdoor stuff", said O'Riordan.
O'Riordan performed on many televised live performances in 2007 in support of that record, and travelled to over 22 countries in Europe, North America and South America on the 2007 O'Riordan world tour. On 21 March 2007, she performed on TV show Taratata in Paris, France. On 20 April 2007, O'Riordan made an appearance live on The Late Late Show on RTÉ in Dublin. On 16 May 2007, she appeared on Carson Daly's late-night show, Last Call with Carson Daly, in Burbank, California, in an episode that aired on 18 May 2007. She also appeared on 17 May 2007, on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in Burbank, California, in an episode that aired on 19 May 2007. On 25 May 2007, O'Riordan performed during a live broadcast of Channel 7's Sunrise in Sydney, Australia. In May 2007 she played six songs acoustically at True Music with Katie Daryl on Hdnet in Los Angeles, California, in an episode that aired on 2 September 2007. The same month she performed on the Heaven and Earth Show aired on BBC One. On 29 June 2007, O'Riordan took to the stage of Festivalbar in Catania, Italy. On 2 August 2007, Sanctuary Records UK division ceased their activity and was acquired by UMG at about $88 million. O'Riordan commented, "they started off as a management company for Iron Maiden, maybe 25 years ago. But they've been around forever and now they've become a record company, and I thought, that looks grand and solid—they're indie and they'll be good. Jesus, six months into Are you Listening? they got bought out by Universal in the States...". On 19 November 2007, she cancelled the remainder of her European Tour (Lille, Paris, Luxembourg, Warsaw and Prague) due to illness. In December 2007, she performed in a few small American clubs, including Des Moines, Nashville, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
In 2008, O'Riordan won an EBBA Award. Every year the European Border Breakers Awards recognise the success of ten emerging artists or groups who reached audiences outside their own countries with their first internationally released album in the past year.
In January 2009, the University Philosophical Society (Trinity College, Dublin) invited the Cranberries to reunite for a concert celebrating O'Riordan's appointment as an honorary member of the Society, which led the band members to consider reuniting for a tour and a recording session. Of the event, embracing her performance with the Cranberries, O'Riordan stated that "the minute we started playing it felt like we'd never stopped", pointing out that "it's a chemistry. It just fits". O'Riordan released her second album No Baggage, featuring 11 tracks, in August 2009. The first single "The Journey" was released on 13 July 2009, followed by a second single, "Switch Off the Moment". The music video for "The Journey" was directed by Robin Schmidt and filmed in 16 mm on 8 May 2009, at Howth Beach Pier and at Howth Summit, Dublin, Ireland. The music video aired on 29 July 2009. O'Riordan said of No Baggage "I probably haven't worn my heart on my sleeve like this since the second album No Need to Argue". Nevertheless, No Baggage was poorly received by music critics compared to Are you Listening?, and neither album replicated the success of the Cranberries.
On 25 August 2009, while promoting her solo album No Baggage in New York City on 101.9 RXP radio, O'Riordan announced the Cranberries Reunion World Tour of 107 concerts. Following the statement, O'Riordan reported that thought about how much she missed the band before making the decision to tour again, saying of Lawler and the two Hogan brothers that "they're a big part of my heart and soul". In October 2009, O'Riordan attended, along with actresses Tessa Thompson and Emma Bates, an event at The Westwood Theatre in Ontario, after a screening of South Dakota: A Woman's Right to Choose, a film about teenage pregnancy and abortion. O'Riordan moderated a discussion with high school pupils, she remained neutral and allowed the girls to formulate their own opinions. O'Riordan and the Cranberries allowed their songs "Dreams", "Empty" along with "Apple Of My Eye" and "Stupid", to feature in the film released in the US in October 2013.
The Cranberries reformed and the tour began in North America in mid-November, followed by South America in mid-January 2010 and Europe in March 2010. The band played songs from O'Riordan's solo albums, many of the Cranberries' classics, as well as new songs. In 2010, O'Riordan told Billboard magazine that playing with Fergal Lawler, Noel and Mike Hogan worked better dynamically with her voice. By 2010, however, O'Riordan suffered from vocal cord nodules which caused her doctor to prescribe six weeks of inability to perform. Consequently, concert dates were cancelled and postponed, but the recurring problem persisted until 2012.
On 1 July 2011, a concert entitled "TU Warszawa"—"Here, Warsaw" was the main event of the inauguration of Poland's presidency of the EU council. O'Riordan performed "Zombie" and "I Lied" (English version of the Polish song "Skłamałam") with the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, in Warsaw, Poland. At this point in her career, to keep up with her bookings, negotiations and finances, O'Riordan began to be managed by Danny Goldberg, former Kurt Cobain and Nirvana manager. Goldberg has also managed Sonic Youth and Courtney Love's band Hole. O'Riordan celebrated the reunion by touring with the Cranberries across Asia in July 2011, where the crowd was "impressed with her wide vocal range and strong vocal control". During the six years of their hiatus, O'Riordan and Noel Hogan occasionally shared ideas. In 2011, they recorded their sixth album, Roses with longtime producer Stephen Street, released in February 2012.
On 22 March 2012, the Cranberries cancelled nine minutes before the show at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, O'Riordan suffered from food poisoning and was unable to perform. When she recovered, the Roses Tour resumed two days later and the cancelled show was rescheduled for 26 March. In May 2012, the final two concerts of the North American tour of the Cranberries had to be postponed for a then undisclosed reason, which was later said to involve from O'Riordan's "hectic touring schedule"; this caused some uncertainty about the upcoming European leg of the tour. For the second leg of the Roses World Tour, O'Riordan hired a touring backing vocalist, Johanna Cranitch. During anterior tours, backup vocals were performed by the band's backup guitarist, Steve DeMarchi. In November 2012, the extent to which her father's 2011 death was affecting O'Riordan was made public when she admitted in Le Télégramme that she was unable to perform "Ode to My Family" throughout the 32 shows of the second leg of the European tour; O'Riordan said "I hope to be able to sing it back one day, but for now, it's too soon".
O'Riordan replaced Sharon Corr as one of the mentors on RTÉ's The Voice of Ireland during the 2013–14 season. O'Riordan reached the final of the competition with her act Kellie Lewis, who finished in second place. In October 2013, O'Riordan and Marco Mendoza reconvened their partnership and were working on the songs for her announced third solo album scheduled for 2014, and presumably some film possibilities. Her final performance at the Vatican Christmas concert occurred in December 2013, where she performed "Letting Go" from Are You Listening?, "Silent Night" in duet with Elisa Toffoli, "Away in a Manger" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". In the autumn of 2013, as her hometown of Limerick was preparing to start its tenure as Irish City of Culture in 2014, O'Riordan was approached by the city to play a special gig. During a New Year's Eve party under the Spire of St Mary's Cathedral, she performed with a quartet from the Irish Chamber Orchestra, playing "Linger", "Zombie" and one solo, "The Journey".
In mid-January 2014, between shoots for The Voice, O'Riordan stated that she had written fifteen songs for a new solo album and she planned to go to Los Angeles to elaborate the start of the album. In April 2014, disillusioned by her experiences in the music industry, O'Riordan told Barry Egan that the record business made her "extraordinarily wealthy, but sucked the blood out of her, like a particularly ferocious vampire". In mid-July 2014, O'Riordan had announced that she would not return to The Voice of Ireland for a second season due to her health condition affected by flights from Dublin to Canada during seven weeks of filming.
In April 2014, O'Riordan began recording new material with Jetlag, a collaboration between Andy Rourke of the Smiths and Olé Koretsky, a DJ and producer based in New York. They then formed a trio under the name D.A.R.K. Their first album, Science Agrees, was released in September 2016.
In late April 2017, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band, the Cranberries released a new studio album Something Else, featuring acoustic versions of their greatest hits, and backed by the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Three new songs appear on this album: "Rupture," "Why" and "The Glory" the last song written by O'Riordan and Noel Hogan, in their song-writing partnership. The album was well received by critics; reviewers have praised "the return of one of Ireland's finest songsmiths", and reacted favourably to the orchestral and acoustic reimagining. Music critic Karen Gwee has described O'Riordan's voice "more measured, more labile and rich with maturity", whilst "the thinness of her voice dilutes the anxious energy of "Animal Instinct", one of the album's tracks".
In May 2017, the band started the world tour as acoustic concerts, with a string quartet. Most of the time, O'Riordan sang seated on a stool. After eleven shows, O'Riordan was said to be in "excruciating pain". The Cranberries published on social media the cancellation of the sold-out tour in Europe and North America, stating that O'Riordan's back problem was in the mid- to upper area of her spine and diaphragmatic movements associated with breathing and singing exacerbated the pain. During her rest, O'Riordan had been planning a new album of the Cranberries, and had written and recorded demo versions in her final years.
O'Riordan's last public performance was on 14 December 2017 in New York City, when she sang three Cranberries songs at Billboard's Christmas party. In late 2017, O'Riordan confirmed her appearance at Billboard private event, which led devotees to believe she would soon performing again. On 15 December 2017, Eminem released his album Revival which included a large sample from the song "Zombie" as the hook for his rap song "In Your Head".