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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Irish Singer Sinéad O’Connor Has Died At The Age Of 56

Sinead O'Connor on stage at the Olympic Ballroom in 1988. Photograph: Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection

By Sarah Burns

Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor has died at the age of 56, her family has announced.

In a statement, the singer’s family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

The acclaimed Dublin performer released 10 studio albums, while her song Nothing Compares 2 U was named the number one world single in 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards. Her version of the ballad, written by musician Prince, topped the charts around the globe and earned her three Grammy nominations.

The accompanying music video, directed by English filmmaker John Maybury, consisted mostly of a close-up of O’Connor’s face as she sung the lyrics and became as famous as her recording of the song. In 1991, O’Connor was named artist of the year by Rolling Stone magazine on the back of the song’s success.

O’Connor was presented with the inaugural award for Classic Irish Album at the RTÉ Choice Music Awards earlier this year. The singer received a standing ovation as she dedicated the award for the album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, to “each and every member of Ireland’s refugee community”.

“You’re very welcome in Ireland. I love you very much and I wish you happiness,” she said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar led the tributes to O’Connor, expressing his sorrow at the death of the singer in a post on social media.

“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,” said Mr Varadkar.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he was “devastated” to learn of her death.

“One of our greatest musical icons, and someone deeply loved by the people of Ireland, and beyond. Our hearts goes out to her children, her family, friends and all who knew and loved her,” he said.

Minister for Culture and Arts Catherine Martin said she was “so sorry” that the “immensely talented” O’Connor had died.

“Her unique voice and innate musicality was incredibly special ... My thoughts are with her family and all who are heartbroken on hearing this news Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.”

O’Connor is survived by her three children. Her son, Shane, died last year aged 17. She drew controversy and divided opinion during her long career in music and time in public life. In 1992, O’Connor tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on US television programme Saturday Night Live in an act of protest against sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

“I’m not sorry I did it. It was brilliant,” she later said of her protest. “But it was very traumatising,” she added. “It was open season on treating me like a crazy bitch.”

The year before that high-profile protest, she boycotted the Grammy Awards, the music industry’s answer to the Oscars, saying she did not want “to be part of a world that measures artistic ability by material success.” She refused the playing of US national anthem before her concerts, drawing further public scorn.

In more recent years, O’Connor became better known for her spiritualism and activism, and spoke publicly about her mental health struggles.

In 2007, O’Connor told US talkshow Oprah Winfrey that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder four years previously and that before her diagnosis she had struggled with thoughts of suicide and overwhelming fear.

She said at the time that medication had helped her find more balance, but “it’s a work in progress”. O’Connor had also voiced support for other young women performers facing intense public scrutiny, including Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus.

The singer converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat, though continued to perform under the name Sinéad O’Connor. In 2021, O’Connor released a memoir Rememberings, while last year a film on her life was directed by Kathryn Ferguson.

Broadcaster Dave Fanning said O’Connor would be remembered for her music and her “fearlessness” and “in terms of how she went out there all the time, believed in everything she was doing, wasn’t always right and had absolutely no regrets at all”.

American rapper and actor Ice T has paid tribute to O’Connor, saying she “stood for something”, after her death at the age of 56.

In a Twitter post, he wrote: “Respect to Sinead ... She stood for something ... Unlike most people ... Rest Easy”.

Musician Tim Burgess of the Charlatans said: “Sinead was the true embodiment of a punk spirit. She did not compromise and that made her life more of a struggle. Hoping that she has found peace.”

Ian Brown of The Stone Roses tweeted: “RIP SINEAD O’CONNOR A Beautiful Soul. Hearin Collaborating with and hearing Sinead sing my songs in the studio in Dublin was magical and a highlight of my musical life.”

The Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) said: “Our hearts go out to family, friends, and all who were moved by her music, as we reflect on the profound impact she made on the world.”

Irish band Aslan paid tribute to O’Connor. Both originating from Dublin, O’Connor collaborated with the band on Up In Arms in 2001.

Aslan lead singer Christy Dignam died in June.

A post on the band’s Facebook page read: “Two Legends taken from us so closely together… No words … Rest in Peace Sinead”


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