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'Everybody else didn't do it - Dolores did'

The Cranberries kicked off what would become Limerick’s cultural renaissance.

Will Leahy

IT’S ODD TO be asked to write about Dolores O’Riordan in memoriam. She was, by far, the most famous woman to ever come out of Limerick.

And she was famous at a time when fame actually meant something and not bestowed on someone who blogs about eye shadow.

Back when the Cranberries formed in 1989/90, Dolores was a reluctant front woman.

Seamie Flynn, who ran the Theatre Royal in Limerick in the 90s recalls that she sang with her back to the audience for their first few gigs. Fame never seemed to sit easy with her and her relationship with it was uneasy. The tabloids loved her but the feeling was never mutual.

The male members of the Cranberries all remained and were familiar faces around Limerick. Dolores might have come home to see her family from time to time but I can’t ever recall seeing her in any pub during the heyday. Oddly, I have seen her in town several times in the past year simply walking down the street alone.

The Cranberries kicked off what would become Limerick’s cultural renaissance. Right after they hit Number One in the United States, we had the steamroller that was Bill Whelan’s Riverdance.

That was followed by Angela’s Ashes, D’Unbelievables and Munster Rugby.

All of a sudden we were “Fab” city.

Tourists would travel to Limerick to see where the Cranberries came from. When I was the MC at the Limerick City of Culture concert in 2013 at which Dolores headlined I met two girls who had come from South America just to see her sing three songs in her hometown.

Backstage, Dolores reminded me that the last time she had performed a solo gig in Limerick was in Laurel Hill School in 1988.

The Cranberries weren’t just a successful band, they were the second most successful band to ever come out of this country. Oddly, I think we in Ireland in the 1990s underestimated the enormity of their popularity as somehow they never seemed as popular on their home turf.

To put the numbers into perspective, the Cranberries No Need to Argue album ranks at number 99 on the list of the most successful albums ever.

There isn’t a single album released by the Rolling Stones ahead of them. Ed Sheeran’s world-conquering most recent album which has been parked at the top of the charts for a year has only sold 11 million albums.

The Cranberries never played the Aviva, never played Croke Park and only played the Point twice. In fact, the largest shows (aside from festivals) that the Cranberries played here were in the GAA stadium in Killarney and at Dublin Castle. In 1995 when they were selling albums as fast as they could be manufactured, the Cranberries biggest show at home was in the Green Glens in Millstreet.

Prophets in their own land and all that.

No doubt there will be calls for statues and memorial concerts. Her life and lifestyle will be analysed and picked apart.

The tabloids will have one more day out. Today, we remember that voice. The voice that sold 40 million albums. The voice that sang to the Pope. The voice that played Madison Square Gardens many times over.

To paraphrase their debut album, everybody else didn’t do it. She did.

Will Leahy is a Limerick- based presenter for RTE.

Read: Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan dies aged 46

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Will Leahy

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