My relationship to music is a very intimate one. I have often said that if it wasn’t for the presence of music in my life I would be dead. Perhaps physically, perhaps just emotionally. I cannot say for sure. But I have my guesses.
Throughout life I have been dealt some heavy instances, somethings I am only now understanding where not at all okay for a child to endure. And in my darkest hours music was there for me. From my walkman, to my discman, to my ipod, to my smartphone – it was and is rare that i didn’t/don’t have my comfort blanket on hand. Music, It never hurt me, it never abandoned me, and it held me and those I held dear when no one else would – or could.
Today was a dark morning for me, Dolores O’Riordan the lead singer to The Cranberries was found dead in her hotel room late last night. I’m crushed, and a sea of torrential tears followed. Dolores was not just her music, she was a Female lead in a country that certainly didn’t encourage that, she was fierce Irish Woman battling mental illness, she was an artist and a revolutionary, she was a Mother of three, she was 46, she was a heroine of mine since I was a small girl. She was art, and her art saved my life.
In Dolores I saw my own reflection. She taught me it was okay to be a rebel, to be a poet, to be different. In the end, in her ending, Music couldn’t save her, but it saved me.
Growing up my Mother loved The Cranberries, my mother loved music in general and most of our days were filled with the shared dance that came with knowing that all we had was each other, and our music. The Cranberries, The Stone Temple Pilots, David Bowie, Queen, and SoundGarden were all a staple. Now their front people are elsewhere than in the living realm. Dead, but not really.
When things got hard, as they often did, music would blare out our car window as we drove, just drove anywhere and listened to music. When my Mom and Stepdad’s domestic abuse would reach a crescendo, music would cradle us in our shared strife. Music was a Mother to me when my own Mother couldn’t be there, Music was her Mother too. The Cranberries often took this space. Her heartfelt irish wails cascading over our shared sorrowing. It encouraged nourishment, grieving, and going forward – only because of the fodder these sounds provided us.
I found home only in my Mother, but something in Dolores’s songs, in her voice reminded me of a home I had not felt yet. It reminded me of my blood’s mother land, it reminded me that revolution, courage and endurance ran through my veins. That I was put on this earth to be brave, that I was put here to receive and to give back ten fold.
Fast forward to me, age 15 – I’m sad, I’m lost and I have no fucking idea what am doing. I need guidance, I need support, I need something – but I am alone, scared and in that strange place in-between being a child and an adult. I reach a space of breaking, and for the first time in my life I go further than just contemplating suicide. In the Fall of my 15th year I took every pill in my house and waited for death to retrieve me, I was tired – and now looking back I understand that I was more tired than any girl my age should have been. The world was on my shoulders and I didn’t know how to ask for help. So I waited, and I listened to music. I listened to The Cranberries album “No need to argue” on repeat, and I cried whilst clutching my “last slurpee”. Melodramatic, hell yes. I never claimed anything different.
The immense physical pain hit, and the music played on. In my delirium it sounded as if she was singing to me, good gods I just wanted a strong, kind, Woman to sing to me. She sang her sonnets, these songs that effected me in a way I had no capacity to understand at that point. And suddenly my breaking point hit a wall; No. I didn’t want to die, I really didn’t. I just wanted someone to sing to me, hold me, and to empower me to make change in my own way. I just wanted a world where people would sing to each other when things became broken. I called 9-1-1 and they were there within 10 minutes.
I lived, obviously – and while I would like to say I was healed completely, I cannot boast such a thing. There were many other slip ups over the next ten years, the scars on my body only a minor reflection of the scars inside. But I was a little bit healed, and a lot less dead than I had planned. Bonus!
Music, has always been the salve that enabled me to pick myself up again, music has saved my life so many times. My desire was only to return that favour with my own artistic expression.
But Dolores is dead, and while this is shattering news to me I am proud that I do not feel the need to join her. We live in a world that does not know how to tend to the mentally ill, A world that sees it as something to be swept under the rug, as a cultural burden. This is bullshit, as it was the culture it’s self that enabled these woundings.
I woke up this morning and I sobbed for an hour, at first I sobbed for her death, and then I sobbed with terror – if she one of my heroines could not do it, then how the fuck could I? Much like I felt when Michael Stone and Chris Cornel had lost their battle with mental illness. They were so strong, how could I possibly keep fighting a battle they lost? And then I cried for her Children, I cried for her fans, her band, and then the plethora of people in the world that felt weaker knowing she had succumbed to her grief.
And then I cried for my mother, she was my best friend, my sister, my home – and now we are estranged. She choose a much different, and very much conflicting path than I. And after Amplify Her came out what little remained of our relationship imploded. These past 3 months I have lost a hero, a home, a Mama, and a very toxic relationship between them all. I cried because I knew somewhere, she was crying too.
I miss my mom, I miss Dolores, and I miss all my dead heroes.
But I still have their music. In addition to that I have my own. and perhaps that is the only respectful form of immortality available to us. One day, I will die, I will feed life with my death and that is proper; but perhaps having lived in such a way that the music and art flowed through me authentically I would be offered the ability to keep giving after my dying. Much like Dolores has.
Her death was too soon, I will not fuck around and say otherwise. She lived in a sad world, one that we all lived in – and she gave until she could not anymore.
I have much to give, far past my young age, far past her age of 46, I have shit to do and a world to fill with art and love. And I promise you I will not do this alone.
There are no lone wolves in the wild, lone wolves die.
Thank you Dolores, thank you so god-damn much for holding me and the others that you did, in the way that you did. Thank you for stirring my ancestral memory as you did, thank you for fighting as you did, thank you for the revolution. We will continue on where you left off.
In my blood there is music, art, magic, power, grief and an infinite amount of love. And god damn it one day I will be in my 90’s telling my great grandchildren all the stories I have been fated to collect. Surrounded by the living, and surrounded by my dead.
This I promise you.