The Story Behind The Cranberries’ Legendary Hit “Linger”
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Even in her absence, Dolores O’Riordan’s enchanting rendition of “Linger” continues to captivate us. Her distinctively feminine voice, adorned with a lovely Irish accent, propelled The Cranberries to global stardom during the early 1990s.
While “Zombie” may be the band’s most iconic track, it was the heartfelt “Linger” that became The Cranberries’ breakthrough, featured on their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?.
This song is not only a crucial part of The Cranberries’ artistic identity, celebrated for its exceptional melody, musical arrangement, and lyrics, but it also marked the rightful ascent of O’Riordan as the band’s lead vocalist.
The singer wrote the song after ending her relationship with her first boyfriend, a soldier who left her heartbroken. She described the song as an exploration of “the way I reacted to infatuation”.
“Linger” was also about Dolores’ first kiss
O’Riordan wrote “Linger” as an ode to her first romantic kiss, an experience that ignited love within her, although the said smooch unfolded within the dimly lit confines of a nightclub.
Yet, a few weeks later, O’Riordan found herself disheartened as the very man with whom she had shared that kiss took to the dance floor with another girl right before her eyes.
Reflecting on this, the singer shared in a 2002 interview with Gerry Ryan, “I was heartbroken! I was only 18 and it was just a kiss, you know? At that age it’s heartbreaking.”
Given that Dolores O’Riordan was a mere 18 years old when she composed the song, “Linger” exudes a sense of innocent youthfulness. This youthful essence seamlessly permeates the song’s melancholic tones.
Dolores O’Riordan was their lucky charm
Reflecting on those early days in an interview with uDiscoverMusic, lead guitarist Noel Hogan remembered, “We played a few songs for her, then she sang Sinead O’Connor’s “Troy” and a couple of songs she’d written, and it was obvious she could sing, so that was it – she was in.”
“I gave her a cassette with the music for ‘Linger’ on it. And a few days later, Dolores brought it back with all the words and the song that we now all know. That was the first song we wrote together,” recalled the co-founder of The Cranberries, who were known back then as Cranberry Saw Us.
With their new lead singer on board, the band began recording demos, and Hogan took the step of sending demo tapes of “Linger” and “Dreams” to various record companies. Impressed by the tapes, British record labels engaged in a fierce bidding war to secure the band.
Amidst this fervor, the band adopted the name The Cranberries. Ultimately, they inked a substantial six-album deal with Island Records, and in March 1993, the band released their debut album, featuring “Linger” as a single.
The song lingered heavily throughout the 90s
“Linger” marked a significant milestone for The Cranberries, as it became their international hit. The track soared to the eighth position on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. MTV helped in catapulting “Linger” to popularity during the mid-90s by placing it in heavy rotation.
In a 2012 interview, O’Riordan shared, “I remember when MTV first put ‘Linger’ in heavy rotation, every time I walked into a diner or a hotel lobby, it was like, ‘Jesus, man, here I am again’. It was trippy, like Jacob’s Ladder. I didn’t even have to take drugs”.
In 2018, the song returned to the charts following the untimely passing of the Cranberries lead singer. After O’Riordan’s death, The Cranberries chose to complete their eighth studio album, In the End, featuring O’Riordan’s vocals posthumously.
This became their final album, aptly concluding The Cranberries’ musical journey, as the band officially disbanded following its release.