Sinéad O’Connor Was A Complex Woman With The Voice Of An Angel

On Wednesday 26 July 2023, the news broke that the “troubled” Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor had died at the age of 56. Given O’Connor’s relatively young age, her self-described history of depression, the many pressures that she has publicly faced, and the fact that her cause of death was initially not announced, many music fans feared the worst.

It is some conciliation to read that the London Metropolitan Police are not treating O’Connor’s death as suspicious. Insightful and moving obituaries have been published for the singer, who, since converting to Islam in 2018, changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat but retained Sinéad O’Connor as her professional name. Given these readily available obituaries, The Music Man will not flesh out her life story. Consider this more of a Wake, or a celebration of O’Connor’s music and spirit. First up is the song Sister Sinead by her friend Kris Kristofferson.

Kris Kristofferson was moved to write the above tribute to O’Connor after the most significant events in O’Connor’s hitherto flourishing career. As is well known, in October 1992 she appeared on Saturday Night Live. For her second song, she sang an acapella version of Bob Marley’s War, which is a call for universal human rights. After the song she held up a picture of Pope John Paul II, tore it in pieces, and said “Fight the real enemy”, as a protest against the Catholic Church’s covering up of the sexual abuse of children.

Two weeks after SNL, O’Connor appeared at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute in Madison Square Garden. She was introduced by Kristofferson, who comforted her when she was loudly booed. What many of those who judge O’Connor for tearing up the picture of the Pope don’t know is that this specific picture had hung in O’Connor’s unstable and abusive mother’s bedroom until her death, and that O’Connor spent her early teenaged years in a Catholic reformatory. O’Connor spent her early teenaged years in a Catholic reformatory. It was
a nun who first recognised and nurtured her musicality. Now let’s hear Sinéad’s lovely voice:

That is the first single from O’Connor’s fourth album Universal Mother (1994). This was O’Connor’s first album after her SNL appearance. Her career would never reach the heights of her first three albums. Her records became more diverse as she explored faith and belonging. Later albums include the critically acclaimed reggae album Throw Down Your Arms (2005, produced by Sly and Robbie) and the LP of traditional Irish songs Sean-Nós Nua (2002).

Sinéad O’Connor’s last album was I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (2014). Significantly, O’Connor recently announced on Twitter that she was working on a new album and was hoping to tour again. “Hi All, recently moved back to London after 23 years absence. Very happy to be home. Soon finishing my album. Release early next year…Hopefully Touring Australia and New Zealand toward end 2024. Europe, USA and other territories beginning early 2025,” she announced. Earlier this year she also announced that she had recorded the theme song for the Scottish time travel series Outlander. It is a great, but brief version of The Skye Boat Song. Here it is:

The Music Man readers will notice that I have not mentioned O’Connor’s sublime, star-making cover of Nothing Compares to U. The song features in most of the obituaries and it is linked in most. In it’s place I’m going to play out with the exquisitely sung traditional Irish song Molly Malone from the Sean-Nós Nua LP.

Sinead O’Connor was a divisive figure, and, for the most part, she was unrepentant and proud of it. RIP Sinéad.

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