The untold truth of The Cranberries

The Cranberries were one of the biggest bands of the 90s, especially if you grew up in Ireland or the United Kingdom. Soaring guitars and the haunting voice of lead singer Dolores O'Riordan made the band's songs hits, bringing their popularity to fever pitch around the turn of the millennium.

Before the Cranberries burst onto the scene in 1993 with their first album Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We and its single "Linger," they had been hard at work years, starting in 1990 when brothers Noel and Mike Hogan and drummer Fergal Lawler put out an advertisement for a female singer to join their group, Rolling Stone wrote. In walked O'Riordan wearing a tracksuit, for what would be a lackluster beginning. Lawler said O'Riordan carried a keyboard with her and began her audition, but they could barely hear her because of the speakers. Afterwards he had to give her a lift to the bus stop. But O'Riordan came back for another go, and the whole group heard how well her voice fit the music they all wanted to make.

Success took time, Rolling Stone said. But then the US airwaves picked up "Linger." They toured the US heavily that year, but were only just getting started.

Courting Controversy

By 1994, The Cranberries were ready to take on a different level of fame. The band released their second album, No Need to Argue. The record fulfilled O'Riordan's hope to move to an edgier sound, and they did it with the song "Zombie." As UDiscoverMusic explained, "Zombie" was cathartic for the band as the song was inspired by the unrest going on in Ireland at the time and The Troubles a few years earlier. O'Riordan said, "'Zombie' is the most aggressive song the band has ever written."

Written after bombs in the northern English town of Warrington killed 12-year-old Tim Parry and three-year-old Jonathan Ball and shocked the nation, the song came under fire. People felt the band was choosing sides. The BBC and Irish network RTE, wrote Michigan Daily, didn't want to air the music video, which featured actual footage of The Troubles (the name of the Irish conflict in question.) For many outside of Ireland, the song and the video introduced the conflict to a broader audience, and "Zombie" became The Cranberries' first number one hit.

The band also found controversy beyond its songwriting. The Cranberries wanted to play a free concert in Washington, D.C.'s National Sylvan Theater in 1995, partnering with a radio station and capping the audience at 3,000. But, The Washington Times reported, the organizers vastly misjudged their fame. The show started 40 minutes late, but the fans were already in a frenzy. A riot broke out and DC police stopped the show after a song and a half.

A long break

More albums followed, but none found the same heights as their previous undertakings. By 2003, O'Riordan told her fellow bandmates she needed a break. The Cranberries took a five-year hiatus where each member took on more solo projects. It didn't quite stick, said Rolling Stone.

The Zombies reunited in 2009 to play a concert at Trinity College in Dublin. This lead to a UK and North American tour. In 2012, the band recorded another album, Roses and another one in 2017 called Something Else. O'Riordan, however, filed a lawsuit against Neil Hogan, her frequent writing partner, but the two settled, and the case was thrown out. 

According to NPR, O'Riordan was open about her struggles with substance abuse and mental health problems. But Hogan said she had worked through those and wanted to sit down and write another album for The Cranberries. They would call the album In the End, and it would turn out to be the band's last.

O'Riordan was found dead in a London hotel room in January 2018. She was 46 years old. A later investigation would rule she accidentally drowned in the bathtub after being intoxicated with high levels of alcohol, The Guardian reported. Hogan, and the rest of The Cranberries, announced the band would permanently disband. They didn't want to do it without O'Riordan.