Sinéad O’Connor

  • Irish singer-songwriter born in 1966 in Glenageary Ireland. Died in July 2023, a year and a half after her son committed suicide.
  • O’Connor had an abusive mother, and at the age of twelve she left her mother to live with her father. By 15, she was stealing and skipping school, and she was put into a Catholic asylum for young girls for 18 months. While there, she developed her skill for writing music. A volunteer at the asylum heard O’Connor singing, and she suggested that O’Connor sing for her brother’s rock band. She recorded a song with the band, but she was not invited to join because of her young age. In 1984, she placed an ad in a magazine and soon met Colm Farrelly. Together they recruited several other musicians and they formed a band called Ton Ton Macoute, with O’Connor as lead vocalist. They received positive reviews while performing in Dublin, and the music industry noticed her talent. A record label signed her to a contract in 1986.
  • Her first work was to co-write and provide vocals to the song Heroine for the soundtrack to a film titled Captive – music for the film was written and performed by U2’s The Edge. Her manager at that time was the former head of U2’s record label, Fachtna O’Ceallaigh. O’Ceallaigh was outspoken on his political views, and O’Connor was influenced by him.
  • In 1987, O’Connor’s debut album was released – The Lion and the Cobra. All songs were written by O’Connor, with themes of social oppression, sexuality and religion. The cover of the album featured her signature shaved head. The lead single Troy charted in several European countries, and a remix version released in 2002 was a #3 hit on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart. Her second single was more successful – Mandinka reached the top 40 in seven International countries and peaked at #14 on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
  • Her breakthrough occurred with her second album – 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. The album included her performance of Nothing Compares 2 U, written by Prince and originally released as part of an album by Prince’s side project The Family in 1985. O’Connor’s version had a significantly different arrangement, and her version was ranked #184 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Songs of All Time. The song topped 22 different charts, including the Hot 100 chart, and when Billboard published their list of the all time biggest Hot 100 songs between 1958 and 2018, it was ranked #97. The video for the song was acclaimed, and it won Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1990. The album was ranked #457 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of All Time, and ultimately it was certified 2x platinum. In 1991 it won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance – O’Connor refused to accept the award. A second single from the album, The Emperor’s New Clothes, topped the Alternative Airplay chart.
  • Now a public figure, she began to create controversies with her activism. She stated that she would not perform if the United States National Anthem was played before her concerts – this caused Frank Sinatra to threaten to “kick her in the ass.” In 1992, her famous Saturday Night Live stunt occurred, where she sang an a capella version of Bob Marley’s song War. While Marley’s version was a protest against racism, O’Connor turned it into a protest against sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church, tearing a photo of Pope John Paul II while singing the word “evil” and then shouting “Fight the real enemy” and throwing the pieces of the photo at the camera.
  • Albums released in 1992 and 1994 were less popular. Several singles reached charts in Europe, but she only charted twice in the U.S. during the 90s – a cover of Loretta Lynn’s Success reached #20 on the Alternative Songs chart, and You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart reached #24 on the same chart. She also collaborated with several artists during the 90s, most notably with Peter Gabriel on his 1993 single Blood of Eden. 
  • Between 2000 and 2014, O’Connor released six studio albums, five compilation albums and a live album. She also was the featured vocalist for numerous songs by various international artists during the 00s and 10s. In 2020, she released a single titled Trouble of the World, a cover of the Mahalia Jackson song, with all profits going to Black Lives Matter charities. In 2021, she announced that her eleventh album would be released in January 2022, titled No Veteran Dies Alone. Originally, the album was to be named No Love No Lotus, and then it was changed to No Mud No Lotus. As of November 2022, it still has not been released. She announced that she would not perform to support the album, and that it would be her last contribution to the music industry. In June 2021, she published a memoir titled Rememberings, detailing her “trainwreck” life.
  • In 2017, she changed her legal name to Magda Davitt, saying that she wanted to be free of “patriarchal slave names and free of parental curses.” After converting to Islam in 2018, she changed her name again to Shuhada Sadaqat. She certainly was a complicated artist. Here’s the video to Nothing Compares 2 U.

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