COUNTDOWN TO A TRADGEDY
had experienced difficult times over the years, being separated from her children and battling mental health issues. But she seemed to have arrived in a good place, and was looking forward to a productive year in 2018...
The year had started promisingly for Dolores O’Riordan. The Cranberries singer was convinced that 2018 was going to be a great year for her Her latest outfit D.A.R.K were planning to release new recordings in May. And she was also in talks with the BMG label about a new Cranberries album. It is no secret that the 46-year-old’s confidence had been low for much of 2017. Gigs had been cancelled. Back problems were cited as the cause, but the hard reality of it must have been tough on her morale.
However, Dolores appeared to be in better form during the run-up to Christmas. She played a corporate gig in New York and enjoyed it: it was the first time she had performed live in several months and it gave her a shot of much-needed, renewed confidence.
After the gig, she wrote on Facebook: “Feeling good! I did my first bit of gigging in months at the weekend, performed a few songs at the Billboard annual staff holiday party in New York with the house band. Really enjoyed it!”
She spent Christmas Day in the Big Apple with the new man in her life, Olé Koretsky. They met in 2015 and had started the band D.A.R.K together.
Inevitably, the countdown to Christmas must have been emotionally difficult for Dolores, who was diagnosed as bi-polar in 2015. Her children – Taylor Baxter (20), Molly
Leigh (16), and Dakota Rain (12) – have been living with her ex-husband, Don Burton, in Canada. It is a time of year that accentuates any sense of loss we are feeling.
Dolores flew to Canada on St. Stephen’s Day, to spend time with the children. She wrote excitedly on her Twitter account about flying out “to see my babies” and used three heart emojis to express her joy at being reunited with them. Dolores appeared pensive in the accompanying photograph of herself at an airport cafeteria.
Her children mattered hugely to Dolores. While dark clouds have hung over her for many years, and occasional storms erupted along the way, the children provided an anchor for her, through troubled times. In 2013, Dolores revealed that she had once “tried to overdose”, but that she felt that she was “meant to stay here for the kids.”
She travelled from Canada back to New York in time to spend New Year’s Eve with Olé, who touchingly described Dolores last week as his “friend, partner and love of my life”. There was no evidence of a hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. That wasn’t Dolores’ style. Olé posted a photograph of the two of them in a loving embrace with the caption: “NYE: take away, TV, pajamas.”
On 3 January, Dolores returned to Ireland, where she was living. On the same day, she posted the last publicly known photograph of herself, holding the couple’s NY cat, Gio.
“Bye bye Gio,” she tweeted. “We’re off to Ireland.”
Despite her status as an international rock star, in many respects Dolores was a home bird. She loved getting back to Limerick. Brigid Teefy, a family friend and an Independent local councillor, reflected on that quality. “Dolores would come and go here all the time,” she said. “She had been home very regularly. She was world famous, but she was always very grounded and very attached to her native place.”
For Dolores, doubtless there was strength in familiarity.
“She could be herself around here,” Brigid said. “She was simply Dolores to everybody here. She never had any security with her. She was lovely.”
Back in Limerick, Dolores liked to stay fit. It was good for the mind as well as the body. “She would always be out running and jogging,” said Brigid.
Dolores spoke to Hot Press in the past about mental health issues. One of her most likeable qualities was the honesty with which she dealt with issues of this kind. She was a survivor of sexual abuse suffered as “a little girl.” She had struggled with eating disorders, including anorexia. And she had been up and down with depression long before being diagnosed as bi-polar.
She battled through these difficulties and felt now that she was on the right road. She was in therapy and appeared optimistic.
Her friend Dave Davies of The Kinks said that they’d spoken shortly before
Christmas and he reckoned Dolores “seemed happy and well.” She was very friendly with Sunday Independent journalist Barry Egan, and they had exchanged emails recently. “I am happy in Limerick now,” Dolores told him.
In a moving tribute, Egan wrote: “We talked via email during the last week of her life. She said she needed to have goals to look forward to and how she was feeling a lot better now.
She said she had stopped looking back. It was great to talk to her.
“Whenever I emailed her, she would reply, sometimes within the hour, to say that things were going positively in her life and that her counsellor thought she was making great progress. I was absolutely delighted for her. ‘Making music and looking forward is important,’ she said. ‘Lots of love. Dolores x’.”
Dolores had talked about how wanting to play a concert in Limerick in the near future. According to one newspaper report, “She had rehearsed in Limerick music venue Dolan’s Warehouse a month ago and was planning to play there soon, staff said.”
Homecomings of that sort were important.
She was widely loved in the city. Speaking on the RTE news, a fan described her as the Queen of Limerick. She was certainly the city’s most famous female ever.
On 14 January, Dolores O’Riordan flew to London and checked into the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane in West London. O’Riordan’s publicist, Lindsey Holmes of LHPR, explained that, “The primary purpose of Dolores’s trip to London last Sunday evening was for a studio mixing session on Monday and Tuesday with Martin ‘Youth’ Glover on a recently recorded D.A.R.K. album.”
In the aftermath of her death, it was reported that Dolores was also in London to record the vocals on a new version of The Cranberries smash hit single ‘Zombie’ with hard rock band Bad Wolves. Dolores also planned meeting with senior executives at BMG to discuss a new album by The Cranberries. It all pointed towards a sense of renewed activity and with it an underlying optimism.
Dolores had said that one of her goals was to record and release new material in 2018. “I haven’t been doing too much over the last five years. Sometimes you go through periods where you’re not writing music, you’re just dealing with your personal life,” she said.
Just after midnight on that Sunday night in London, Dolores left an upbeat voicemail on the phone of Dan Waite, managing director of rock music label Eleven Seven, to which Bad Wolves are signed.
“She sounded full of life, was joking and excited to see me and my wife this week,”
Dolores had a meeting scheduled for 12.30 the following day with record producer Martin ‘Youth’ Glove. “It was good timing for her,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be stressful. She was coming in the night before, and we were both excited about seeing each other again.”
Youth sent her a text on Monday morning to re-confirm the arrangements, but there was no response.
The following Friday, had all gone according to plan, Dolores would have boarded a flight back to Limerick. Instead, an inquest into her death was being held at Westminster Coroner’s Court in London. It was adjourned until April 3, while the court awaits the results of tests.
Inevitably, there has been much speculation about how Dolores died, with some US publications claiming to know the exact cause of death – but it would be irresponsible to speculate or repeat such claims.
Dolores had once said that she wanted to pack as much as possible into her life. “Because I am not going to live that long,” she said. “I’m 43. If I see 50, I’ll be happy. I mean that.”
Poignantly, she has now been laid to rest, in the family plot at Caherally Cemetery, just outside her hometown of Friarstown, Co. Limerick, alongside her father Terry, who died from cancer at the age of 68 back in 2011.
Dolores will be cruelly missed, but her music will live on. For those closest to her, that is no consolation. But her music was her gift to the world. We should treasure it always.
D.A.R.K featuring Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, Andy Rourke of The Smiths
and DJ Ole Koretsky Photo: Jen Maler