UPDATED: Dolores O’Riordan, Lead Singer of the Cranberries, is Dead at 46. Cause of Death Still Described as “Unexplained.”

Dolores O’Riordan, the sometimes-troubled singer of the Cranberries, has died suddenly in London at the age of 46.

She was in London for a recording session with a metal band called Bad Wolves at the time of her death. She was found at the Hilton Park Lane Hotel at around 9:05am. No cause has been revealed. All we have is this statement from her publicist.

The lead singer with the Irish band The Cranberries was in London for a short recording session. No further details are available at this time.  Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.

I interviewed Dolores many times following the Cranberries’ sudden vault to superstardom with their debut album, Everybody Else is Doing It So Why Can’t We in 1993. I’ll say this: you never knew which Dolores was going to show up.

There was one particular interview in 2009 when she showed up with a guitar and treated me to a personal acoustic version of “Zombie” as I sat five feet away. On that occasion–she’s just released her second solo album and was in the process of getting back together with the rest of the Cranberries–she was bubbly, effusive and so charming and fun that I wanted to take her home to my home. She was also very forthright about her battles with mental illness. Take a listen.

On other occasions, though, she had a darkness about her, an Irish grumpiness that seemed to say “I want to be anywhere else but here.” Other interviewers I spoke to report the same sort of experiences.

Those of us who work at 102.1 the Edge sometimes ran into Dolores in odd ways. When she had a house in Mississauga with her Canadian husband Don Burton (an ex-road manager for Duran Duran), we’d see her at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto. One day, a heavily pregnant Dolores walked into our studio asking if she could use our washroom. She was polite and somewhat embarrassed about the request, but we accorded her the hospitality we would have given to anyone.

Dolores and Don had homes in both Canada and Ireland. A cottage was a place where she and Don retreated so she could write music and ride snowmobiles. She considered herself “half a Canuck.”

There was, however, the time she had to run from a bear.

 The bears are always in the woods so you have to be careful when you go out. I had to run away from one. I was walking in the woods and I saw him, he saw me, he stood up and I ran away and got to the road and flagged down a car. But they don’t attack for no reason — it’s only if you surprise them or if the mothers have cubs.

She maintained a love for Canada until the end.

The CBC has a look at Dolores’ Canadian connection here.

The Cranberries were unlikely alt-rock heroes during a time when grunge dominated in North America and as Britpop swept through the British Isles. Perhaps it was because the Cranberries were from Limerick, Ireland, that they were able to carve out their own niche.

Performing barefoot, tiny Dolores had a voice that filled arenas with something smooth and sweet…

…and also feature an angry, growly yelp that commanded attention. No one sounded like her.

O’Riordan became an alt-rock favourite, a fiesty, powerful, charismatic singer-songwriter (she co-wrote most of the Cranberries’ songs with guitarist Noel Hogan) that elbowed aside bigger, louder grunge and Britpop boys. My My opinion of her became “you don’t mess with Dolores.”

She told Rolling Stone “My mom always had a softer spot for boys, as a lot of Irish women do,  If you were a girl, you’d have to sing or wear a pretty dress. But boys could just sit there and be brilliant for sitting there and being boys. It makes you that little bit more forward. Pushy. I was singing, always.”

Dolores went through some troubled times even as the Cranberries sold 40 million records and Dolores was blessed with millions. At one point, she was listed as the sixth-richest entertainer in Ireland.

“It was tough,” she told me. “We went right from being teenagers to musical superstars with money and fame and attention. All of us had a hard time adjusting to it, especially me.”

In another interview with The Sun she repeated that story. “Before that, before my breakdown, I didn’t live in the moment.  I basically had the wrong kind of love and attention around me. I lived six years in a bus with strangers, touring the world with the band, seeing the insides of hotels. I lost touch with my friends. I was lonely all that time. I went nuts I was so lonely.  These were days before mobile phones so I had to find a phonebox just to talk to my parents. I lost a lot of my youth.”

Dolores was also open about her battles with alcohol and eating disorders. She also alluded to abuse when she was young. There was at least one failed suicide attempt.

When the Cranberries broke up for the first time, she was glad.

There was solo work (two albums, Are You Listening? in 2007 and No Baggage in 2009, both largely written and demoed in Canada), time with D.A.R.K. and an eventual Cranberries reunion in 2009. That produced two albums: Roses in 2012 and last year’s Something Else.

“We all got older,” she told me, “and we’d tell our children things like ‘Mommy used to be in a famous rock band’ but they didn’t believe us. Part of the reason for our reunion was to show our children what we did to make the lives they have possible.”

But stories about troubling behaviour popped up from time to time. She divorced Don in 2014 after 20 years, sharing custody of their three children.

Here’s what she told Metro:

I have bipolar disorder so I’ve experienced extremes throughout my life. But I was only diagnosed two years ago. There are two ends of the spectrum — you can get extremely depressed and dark and lose interest in the things you love to do, then you can get super manic. I was at the hypomanic side of the spectrum on and off for a long period but generally you can only last at that end for around three months before you hit rock bottom and go down into depression. When you’re manic you don’t sleep and getvery paranoid. So I’m dealing with it with medication.

One of the more recent involved an outburst in 2014 aboard an Aer Lingus flight from New York that resulted in an injury to a flight attendant as the result of a head-butt and a kick. She was arrested, jailed and later fined. Consideration was given to her diagnosed a bipolar condition (specifically “hypomania, sleep deprivation and paranoia”), something that spared her from a criminal conviction. This followed another nervous breakdown following her divorce from Don.

Even though the Cranberries had to cancel a series of European shows last fall because of Dolores’ bad back, recent tweets showed everything seemed to be in order and she seemed in good spirits, even in the last hours of her life.

Then again, some friends report that Dolores was “dreadfully depressed.”

This was her last tweet.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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