Yesterday, it was announced that Sinéad O’Connor, the Irish singer-songwriter whose cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U‘ was one of the biggest hits of the ’90s, died at 56.
“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.”
O’Connor received critical acclaim and worldwide success for her music, but she also struggled with mental health issues and was the center of numerous controversies due to her outspoken political and social views.
Born in Dublin on December 8, 1966, O’Connor had a difficult childhood and alleged that her mother was physically abusive, leaving her with lasting trauma and inspiring a lifelong advocacy for abused children. She was placed in an asylum for shoplifting and truancy issues when she was 15, and discovered a gift for music.
She recorded her first album, 1987’s The Lion and the Cobra, when she was 20. The album charted worldwide and earned O’Connor a Grammy nomination. Slant Magazine and Pitchfork both listed it as one of the best albums of the 1980s, with Slant calling it “one of the most electrifying debuts in rock history” and Pitchfork praising the album’s “themes of patriotism, sexuality, Catholicism, and social oppression set the stage for a career marked by a resolute sense of independence.”
O’Connor achieved worldwide fame, acclaimed for her unique and expressive voice and recognizable for her distinct shaved head, which she said was an assertion against traditional views of women.
O’Connor’s follow-up album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, released in 1990, was her biggest success, and included her cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U‘, her most famous and highest-charting recording. It was named the “#1 World Single” of 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards and frequently ranks on lists of the greatest songs of all time.
While O’Connor continued to record well-received albums, her worldwide fame was impacted by several controversies. The most infamous was her 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live, in which she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while singing Bob Marley’s ‘War‘, telling the audience to “fight the real enemy.”
Last year, O’Connor suffered the loss of her 17-year-old son Shane, who committed suicide. O’Connor vowed never to sing again after her son’s death, canceling an upcoming tour and postponing her new album: “There will never be anything to sing about again,” she said.
O’Connor was left distraught after Shane’s death, even tweeting about the heartbreak before her own death this week.
Responding to a tweet by the Inspirational Quotes account asking: “Tell me how your life is going using emojis,” the late Irish musician shared 10 crying faces with the hashtag: “lostmy17yrOldSonToSuicidein2022” last week.
“Been living as undead night creature since,” she wrote in the emotional tweet on July 17. “He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally.”
She concluded: “I am lost in the bardo without him.”
Rest in peace, Sinéad O’Connor — truly a one-of-a-kind musician who was never afraid to speak her mind. Her legacy will live on.