Sometimes you forget about a part of your past. You remember the big stuff like where you lived and where you worked and who you knew. But you might have forgotten the name of that grocery store you used to love or that little restaurant that had those amazing cheesesticks or the lady you came in every day and bought lottery tickets from you.
These are all everyday details that don’t seem important in the moment but they are what create the texture and fabric of these different eras of our life. And music is arguably a big part of all of that. All it takes is one song on the radio and you’re instantly transported to a time, a place, and even a feeling.
So when I heard of the passing of Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of The Cranberries, I was immediately transported back to the mid 90s with my extensive CD collection and the angst of my mid 20s.
I’ve always been a late bloomer – my first kiss was in the 10th grade, my first boyfriend was in college. I just never really felt comfortable in my skin until well into my 30s. Now go back to that Lilith Fair era where women were no longer the sex objects of hair bands videos. They weren’t Debbie Gibson-esque pop stars. They were rocker grrrls.
I remember watching VH1 back in the day and trying desperately to avoid the Britney Spears and Christina Aguileras of the day. Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch popped on screen brandishing her guitar and talking about how she was the anti-pop star. She looked into the camera and beckoned to other female musicians saying, “Come on, I found another way in!”
That was the era when I discovered The Cranberries and the distinctive voice of Dolores O’Riordan. She was Irish which, as a U2 fan, made her instantly cool. She was the only female in an all-male band. And she wasn’t beautiful or hot. She was fierce. She rocked a short haircut and tight clothes but her style seemed more in defiance of femininity, even though her look became iconic.
I, too, longed for the buzzed hair with bleached tips. I wanted to croon in the same way. A way that didn’t scream “I have a beautiful voice” but rather “I have something to say.”
The Cranberries eventually produced 8 albums but I’ll admit to only owning 5 of them, which is probably true for most mainstream fans.
Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? was their first album released in 1993 and brought us radio hits, Dreams and Linger. They were pleasant enough but I absolutely loved Sunday (I had to refresh my memory and this song was definitely IT for me on this album).
In 1994, their follow up second album No Need to Argue was released. And as I relistened to some of the songs, I realized this was the defining album for The Cranberries for me. I remember buying the CD to listen to in the car (cuz that’s how we rolled in the 90s).
Here’s where it all gets a little crazy. At the time, I was living in Cleveland and commuting daily to Euclid in my 1988 Honda Civic that was just a few rust spots away from falling apart. I was living on a modest teacher’s salary when my tire picked up a nail. So I sought out the cheapest pair of tires I could find ($19 each at the local Sears) and got in the car to Randall Park Mall. It was on this trip that I popped in the new CD and immediately fell in love with Ode to My Family and eventually the rest of the album.
That song, that memory, that feeling of falling in love with music the first time you hear it – it all came back in a flash when I revisited my collection of music from The Cranberries.
After spending time listening to their music for most of the day (much to the chagrin of my 10 year old son), we hopped in the car and headed to the gym. I dragged myself onto an elliptical machine and pulled out the book I’m reading for our next book club, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. The story is set in 1990s Cleveland (Shaker Heights, to be exact) and the author remarks about one of the characters shopping at Randall Park Mall.
Call it strange coincidence or even serendipity but it felt like this moment from my youth had come full circle somehow.
It’s sad to know that Dolores O’Riordan is gone. She was right around my age and it gives me pause to think about what she leaves behind. One of those things is certainly memories of a fierce woman who touched our musical history.
Affiliate links are included but only so I could show images of the albums in question.