Sinéad O’Connor, Irish singer and activist, has died at the age of 56. O’Connor rose to worldwide fame with her single Nothing Compares 2 U, released in 1990.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” her family said in a statement to The Irish Times. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
Born in Dublin on December 8, 1966, O’Connor’s upbringing wasn’t an easy one. With a mother who was physically abusive, the singer spent a lifetime being an advocate and raising her voice against children abuse, not wanting a singe child to experience an ordeal similar to what she was forced to endure.
O’Connor realized that she had a gift for music at the age of 15, which was also the period of her life when she was placed in an asylum for shoplifting and truancy issues.
Five years later, at the age of 20, she recorded her first album, The Lion and the Cobra, which earned her a Grammy nomination.
The album was highly praised, placing O’Connor on the pedestal, where she remained most of her life which was filled with troubles and controversies. Slant Magazine and Pitchfork both listed it as one of the best albums of the 1980s. “One of the most electrifying debuts in rock history” Slant wrote. “Themes of patriotism, sexuality, Catholicism, and social oppression set the stage for a career marked by a resolute sense of independence,” Pitchfork’s critics said of the album.
Having her head shaved, O’Connor sometimes experienced criticism simply because she didn’t fit the standards of what a woman should look like but it was an assertion against traditional views of women according to the singer herself.
O’Connor released her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, in 1990. The album included her cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U, her most famous and highest-charting recording.
The controversies surrounding her life started during the time there were rumors of the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual abuse cases followed by protests. During an appearance on Saturday Night Live, O’Connor expressed her thoughts over the entire situation in quite a controversial manner, by tearing a photo of Pope John Paul II while singing Bob Marley’s War, telling the audience to “fight the real enemy.”
Her action affected her career, but the singer said she had no regrets. “Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame,” she wrote in her 2021 memoir Rememberings.
In 2018, O’Connor converted to Islam after practicing Christianity her entire life and even being ordained as a priest in the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church. She then changed her name to Shuhada’ Davitt.
Over the years, she struggled with mental health issues and even tried to take her own life when she was 33, as she told Oprah. O’Connor was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.
18 months before her passing, O’Connor lost her son to suicide. Shane was 17 years old when he took his own life leaving his mother desperate and mourning his tragic loss.
“There will never be anything to sing about again,” she said following his passing, canceling her tour and postponing her new album.
Really sorry to hear of the passing of Sinéad O’Connor.
Her music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare.
Condolences to her family, her friends and all who loved her music.
Ar dheis Dé go Raibh a hAnam. https://t.co/JVHxz7Kv2Z
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) July 26, 2023
Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar said her music “was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched”.
Irish President Michael D Higgins praised O’Connor’s “authenticity” as well as her “beautiful, unique voice”.
“What Ireland has lost at such a relatively young age is one of our greatest and most gifted composers, songwriters and performers of recent decades, one who had a unique talent and extraordinary connection with her audience, all of whom held such love and warmth for her,” he said.
O’Connor expressed heartache over her son’s passing just days before she died.
The exact cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Rest in peace, Sinéad O’Connor.
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Love and Peace