an open letter mixed with five stunning Cranberries lyrics

art by: Gary Sharp

“And I’m in so deep”

Dear Dolores O’Riordan,

I have been listening to your music on repeat since the news broke on Monday. I am one of those. I have to admit — while I knew the Cranberries quite well, I wouldn’t call myself a frequent listener other than when “Zombie”, “Linger”, “Salvation” or “Dreams” came on the radio. I can assure you, I never changed the dial.

Here’s the thing…

Your breakaway line in “Linger”… “but I’m in so deep,” right before the chorus launches, that’s exactly how I am feeling about your sudden passing. It’s inexplicable and a bit confusing to put to words, but it’s not in a literal sense. It’s the emotion of how you deliver that line that has stuck with me. I don’t actually feel in so deep, I just “feel” in general when I hear you glide so cautiously, confidently, vulnerably and gracefully into that punch of the song. To me, it captures the essence of who you were as an artist and the affect you have on your fans. The line feels personal because you courageously made it personal.

“I know I felt like this before, but now I’m feeling it even more. Because it came from you. Then I open up and see the person falling here is me.”

I, and the world, lost a hero eight months ago in Chris Cornell. As I butterfly through your catalog, taking all the twists and turns, knocking down closed doors and poking into the dark corners, I find, you like Chris, were so generous with your gift. This gift obviously centers around music, but it’s more than that — like the depths of the waters I am navigating. Your honesty. The passion you poured into every note. You not only wore your emotions on your sleeve, but you then scraped them off and painted them on a canvas. Ultimately, it led to a picture of truths that by using all the colors on the pallet, resulted in colors of your own. The unique thing here is that a color of your own was still one that so many could relate to.

“I’ve always put my cards upon the table, never be said that I’d be unstable. Just my imagination”

From 2011 to 2012, I worked at the House of Blues in Boston. One morning I walked outside the venue doors to go grab coffee. A line had formed at least 10 people deep. They were there to see you and the Cranberries performing that night. People lining up for hours or even days in order to get the rail at a GA venue is a common occurrence. I’ve certainly done it. But this seemed different. Just the line outside on a cool, sun-shining, spring morning felt spiritual. The fans glistened with excitement and exuded such a desire to hear these songs live that meant so much to them. Hours later as I walked the mezzanine corridor back to my office, I saw some of the same faces, hugging the barricade and smiling ear-to-ear as they sang “When You’re Gone” (tough symmetry there) along with you. Some had tears rolling down. At the same time, you were so lost in song. It was like you needed it just as much as they did. It all made sense. And it’s an experience I will never forget.

Ironically, I was supposed to interview you at that same HoB venue just this past September as the Something Else tour came through. I was thrilled, and a bit nervous because though each piece Artist Waves delivers builds off a foundation of inspiration, there are few artists we collaborate with that come from a different place. A deeper place. It was something I was cognizant of, was part of my preparation, and certainly something I could relate to as a writer and human being. When I have the chance to speak with such an artist it’s important to me that we connect those wires to create something honest that will move the person on the other side. Something different from the rest — where we talk artist-to-artist, not reporter-to-artist.

We of course never got that chance with the tour cancelling, but perhaps this is it now.

“What’s in your head? In your head.”

I’m big Eminem fan. It’s strange, mostly I am a fan of how much of an artist and lyrical-genius he is. I appreciate it. The day his new record Revival came out, at first listen I simply hit shuffle. Oddly enough, the first thing I heard was you! An incredible mash-up/collaboration of Eminem rapping over your thunderous “Zombie” chorus on a new song conveniently titled, “In Your Head”. The song is all about wrestling what’s on your mind, digging deep, and potentially starting again. It reverts back to one of my original points — your artistic generosity. There’s the obvious — lending your biggest song, now over 23 years-old, to one of the biggest rap stars on the planet. Then, there’s the fact that this anthem is so powerful it crosses genres and weaves it way into the minds of all classifications of people. What’s in your head? In your headdddd…. just three and four words, but delivered with such intensity that it supersizes the phrase, allowing a three-dimensional meaning. The words perfectly surf the punchy guitar riffs and piercing accents.

What’s in your head? It’s an omnipresent and fair question. Something that sometimes has an answer and sometimes just leads to another question. Regardless, it’s always there. Does anyone care?

“I don’t pay attention to the ones who never cared. Find your own direction ’cause there’s sweetness in the air”

You had your struggles. You had your demons. We all do. They have a way of letting themselves in and setting up shop within a dark cave inside your soul. At times, you can approach them kindly and they will cooperate with you, and as crazy as it sounds, even inspire some of your greatest art. You have to acknowledge they are in the backseat of the car, just never let them drive, because if just once they take the wheel…

I, like many others, have faced numerous challenges the past few months. Bob Marley may have had the truest quote of all when he said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” For someone like me, I need a musical companion to accompany the valleys of life. You can’t force it. There are songs that find their way to you, lock hands and simultaneously say, “Man, this is rough” and…. “you got this.” The Cranberries have been that artist for me. It pains me that this had to happen in order for your music to shine through to me, but nonetheless, that’s what great art does. What’s been unique here is that it’s not always these profound lines that have resonated. Sometimes it’s just the way you sing a common phrase like, “in your head,” or how you sail away on the line “your gonna have to hold on” for the last 45 seconds of “Ridiculous Thoughts.”

Your music was a journal where you let the world share the moments with you. Your voice is and will always be so powerful. Even the toughest of messages were so elegantly placed and backed by a control in your tone that was otherworldly. Your singing reminds me of a river. It constantly flows smooth with a nimbleness to carry weight upstream and down. Free to decide. There are rocky turns, but the words stay rhythmic, and they hold on tight. No matter the currents, the waters will always roll on. Just like your music.

I’ve decided to hop upon a raft and I’m going for the ride. I’m in so deep…

Thank you.

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