The last few years have not been kind to many of my musical idols. To be fair, many were older already and had lived full and wild lives so their passing was not necessarily a surprise but when you lose childhood heroes like David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen it still hurts. This week Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries has joined them, which was shocking. O’Riordan was young and she had three children. She was just starting to record again and get back on her feet. I was looking forward to hearing what she was going to do next, as were many others and this terrible news means that we’ll never know.
As of this writing, there is no listed cause of death but O’Riordan had a lot of back pain in the last few years. She had also been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Anorexia and a number of other mental health issues. She was abused as a child. Any number of these issues may have led to her untimely and tragic death – but so far there are a lot more questions than answers. One thing is certain – she had a place in the musical make-up of millions, myself included – and I will miss her hiccuping lilt in the world.
O’Riordan’s tragic death may be a sign of more to come though. Her tale is eerily similar to fellow Irish woman Sinead O’Connor’s stories of woe and her own battles with complicated mental health issues. So far Sinead is alive and kicking – even singing occasionally which I hope she will continue to do for a really long time. One of her most recent gigs was on Monday night at Shane McGowan’s birthday party. She was joined by a huge cast of other celebrities, musicians, and even a President who were all honoring the Pogues front man while also remembering Dolores, whose death had been announced just hours before the show at Dublin’s National Concert Hall.
Shane McGowan has also had a legendary, wild life. The defiant front man with a whiskey-soaked rasp has always been a driving force in my musical lexicon. However, when I saw the video of McGowan’s duet of “Summer in Siam” with fellow rock star Nick Cave and heard his voice tremble through a solo rendition of “Wild Mountain Thyme” I got more than a little misty. On the screen behind the sixty-year old, wheelchair-bound McGowan were pictures of him in his youth flashing by and as he struggled to raise a wine glass to the crowd who propped up his voice with theirs, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was Shane’s farewell, sung out while he still could in the company of fellow Irish artists, friends, and musicians.
I hope I’m wrong. My musical pantheon doesn’t have a lot of living voices left in it – and I think the world needs those who remain. Up until Monday’s surprising news, I would have included Dolores O’Riordan in that group. When another one goes at a relatively young age, it makes you wonder and worry about the rest. The song asks “will ye go” and I want the answer to be a resounding no, regardless of age, lifestyle, or health. I want my musical heroes and the soundtrack to my life to live on forever and I know that’s impossible and selfish but I simply don’t care. We want what we want.
So congratulations to Shane McGowan, who received a lifetime achievement award at his birthday party on Monday night from the President of Ireland in front of a packed and adoring crowd. And congratulations to Sinead O’Connor for continuing to fight her demons and giving a devastatingly beautiful performance that night too. A big thank you to Dolores O’Riordan and the remaining Cranberries for their gift of music that accompanied me through my formative years and has sadly been taken away too soon.
I guess there’s a lesson in this. Keep fighting and making your mark however you can folks, whether it’s music or not. It’s all we’ll leave behind for others one day, and with any luck it’ll stay with them forever, as the aforementioned have affected me.
In the meantime, where’s the bubble wrap and the highly-protected bunker for the rest of the legends out there? I need enough room for at least three.
RIP Dolores. You will be missed and remembered.