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Sinéad O’Connor was well-known for her personal hardships, bold activities, and fiery and expressive music.
Sinéad O’Connor, the talented Irish singer-songwriter who rose to fame in her mid-20s and was known for her private problems and controversial actions as much as her strong and expressive music, has died at the age of 56.
“With great sadness, we announce the death of our beloved Sinéad.” Her family and friends are grieved and have asked for privacy during this difficult time,” the singer’s family said in a statement released Wednesday, according to the BBC and RTE. There was no explanation given.
Kareena Kapoor remembers Sinéad O’Connor
On her Instagram Stories, Kareena Kapoor shared a news story about her death and said, “Nothing compares to you…you Legend.”
“Tragic passing of one of the most talented pop singers #SineadOConnor.. a troubled life, she was unafraid to bring her pain to her songs,” filmmaker Shekhar Kapoor said on Twitter. As a result, she has become one of the most powerful and affecting vocalists of her generation.”
She was open about her mental illness, stating that she had bipolar disorder. In 2017, O’Connor recorded a Facebook video from a New Jersey motel, saying she was keeping alive for the sake of others and that if it were up to her, she’d be “gone.”
When her teenage son Shane committed suicide last year, O’Connor tweeted that there was “no point living without him” and was soon hospitalized. Her final tweet, written on July 17, was, “For all mothers of Suicided children,” and included a link to a Tibetan compassion chant.
O’Connor, known for her shaved head and multi-octave mid-soprano with exceptional emotional range, began her career singing on the streets of Dublin and quickly ascended to international recognition.
She was a star from the release of her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, in 1987, and became a sensation in 1990 with her cover of Prince’s ballad Nothing Compares 2 U, a seething, shattering performance that topped charts in Europe to Australia and was heightened by a promotional video that featured the gray-eyed O’Connor in intense close-up.
Why Sinéad O’Connor had shaved her head
She was a lifelong outsider — she shaved her head in opposition to record executives urging her to be conventionally gorgeous — but her political and cultural opinions, as well as her problematic personal life, frequently overshadowed her music.
O’Connor, a long-time critic of the Roman Catholic Church, made headlines in October 1992 when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while performing on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and attacked the church as the enemy.
The following week, Joe Pesci hosted Saturday Night Live, holding up a mended portrait of Pope Francis and saying that if he had been on the show with O’Connor, he “would have given her such a smack.” She was booed when she appeared at an all-star tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden a few days later. She was meant to sing Bob Dylan’s I Believe in You, but instead chose an a cappella rendition of Bob Marley’s War, which she had previously performed on Saturday Night Live.
Despite being consoled and encouraged on stage by her friend Kris Kristofferson, she exited the stage and broke down, and her performance was not included on the concert CD. (Years later, Kristofferson recorded Sister Sinead, for which he penned, “And maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t/But Picasso was crazy and so were the saints.”)
She also had a disagreement with Frank Sinatra over her reluctance to let The Star-Spangled Banner be played at one of her gigs, and she accused Prince of physically assaulting her. She expressed her support for the Irish Republican Army in 1989, which she eventually repudiated a year later. She missed the Grammys at the same time, claiming it was too commercialized.
O’Connor sparked outrage in Ireland in 1999 when she became a priestess of the breakaway Latin Tridentine Church, a status not recognized by the mainstream Catholic Church. For many years, she advocated for a thorough investigation of the church’s role in covering up priest child abuse. When Pope Benedict XVI apologized to Ireland for decades of abuse in 2010, O’Connor criticized the apology for not going far enough and asked for Catholics to boycott Mass until the Vatican’s role was thoroughly investigated.
“It was assumed that I didn’t believe in God.” That is not at all the case. “I’m Catholic by birth and culture, and if the Vatican offered genuine reconciliation, I’d be the first at the church door,” she said in the Washington Post in 2010.
O’Connor revealed in 2018 that she had converted to Islam and would be going by the name Shuhada’ Davitt, afterwards Shuhada Sadaqat — though she remained to use the professional name Sinéad O’Connor.
“Her music was loved around the world, and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare,” said Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in a social media message.
More about Sinéad O’Connor
On December 8, 1966, O’Connor was born. Her childhood was terrible, with a mother who she claimed was abusive and encouraged her to shoplift. She spent time as a youngster in a church-sponsored institution for girls, where she claimed she washed priests’ clothes for free. However, a nun handed O’Connor her first guitar, and she soon began singing and performing on the streets of Dublin, with influences ranging from Dylan to Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Her performance with a local band piqued the interest of a tiny record label, and in 1987, O’Connor released The Lion and the Cobra, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies and contained the hit Mandinka, which was powered by a hard-rock guitar riff and O’Connor’s piercing vocals. O’Connor, who was 20 at the time and pregnant, co-produced the album.
“I suppose I’ve got to say that music saved me,” she told the Independent newspaper in 2013. “I had no other skills, and there was no learning support for girls like me in Ireland at the time.” It was either that or go to jail. “I was fortunate.”
Nothing Compares 2 U garnered three Grammy nominations and was the featured single on her critically acclaimed album, I Do Not Want What I Don’t Have, which helped propel her to Rolling Stone’s Artist of the Year in 1991. “She proved that a recording artist could refuse to compromise and still connect with millions of listeners hungry for music with substance,” the magazine said.
Other albums by O’Connor include “Universal Mother” and “Faith and Courage,” a cover of Cole Porter’s “You Do Something to Me” from the AIDS fundraising album “Red Hot Blue,” and backup vocals on Peter Gabriel’s “Blood of Eden.” She garnered eight Grammy nominations and won best alternative musical performance in 1991.
In 2003, O’Connor proclaimed her retirement from music, yet she continued to record new material. Her most recent album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, was published in 2014, and she recorded the theme song for Outlander Season 7.
The singer married four times, the most recent being a 16-day marriage to drug counselor Barry Herridge in 2011. Jake, with her husband John Reynolds; Roisin, with John Waters; Shane, with Donal Lunny; and Yeshua Bonadio, with Frank Bonadio were O’Connor’s four children.
In 2014, she announced her intention to join the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, calling on its leaders to step down so that a new generation of activists could take charge. She later rescinded her application. “Ireland has lost one of our most powerful and successful female singer-songwriters and artists,” Sinn Fein deputy president Michelle O’Neill said.