Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor found success in the 1990s, but her career was hampered by mental health issues. She died at age 56.
Sinéad O’Connor, the fiery Irish singer and songwriter whose striking voice made her an unlikely pop superstar in the early 1990s, has died aged 56.
His family confirmed his death in a statement sent to the Irish news channel RTE: It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. His family and friends are devastated and have asked for their privacy at this very difficult time. No cause of death has been released.
Already a rising star in the late 1980s, Sinéad O’Connor shot to fame in 1990 when her version of the Prince song ” Nothing Compares 2 U was number one. Her Celtic-tinged vocal style, marked by alternately soothing and abrasive breathwork, would resonate throughout the 1990s, influencing singers such as Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morissette, who said O’Connor’s music was ” very moving for me, and very inspiring, before I wrote Jagged Little Pill”.
Although her singing is passionate and sensual, O’Connor eschews the clichés that often lock up female rock stars. She was neither a hot girl, nor a hippie free spirit, nor a badass, and her fiercely original personal style (shaved head, emotionally ambiguous expressions, baggy outfits) helped young female artists discover new ways to to reinvent oneself.
Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor was born on December 8, 1966 in Glenageary, County Dublin, Ireland. Her parents separated when she was eight and Sinéad, along with two of her four siblings, went to live with her mother. Sinéad O’Connor would later claim that her mother, who died in a car accident in 1985, physically abused her. She sang about the effects of this abuse in her 1994 song “ Fire on Babylon and always stood up for abused children throughout her life. ” The cause of all the world’s problems, as far as I’m concerned, is child abuse “, she said in 1991.
His fellow musicians recognized his gifts early on. At the age of 15, she co-wrote ” take my hand “, the first single of the Irish rock group In Tua Nua, which will soon be successful. In 1984, she formed Ton Ton Macoute with Colm Farrelly, and the band made a name for themselves on the Dublin rock scene. But O’Connor surpassed her teammates and was soon signed to Ensign Records. She moved to London and co-wrote Heroin with The Edge for the movie captive. U2 were the first band to support O’Connor’s music, but they distanced themselves when she called them a band ” grandiloquent and defended the violent tactics of the Irish Republican Army. She also shaved her head. ” Ensign executives wanted me to wear high heeled boots and tight jeans and let my hair grow outO’Connor told RollingStone in 1991. I decided they were so pathetic that I shaved my head so there was no more arguing. »
The recording sessions for O’Connor’s debut album got off to a rocky start. She clashed with her first producer, Mick Glossip, an industry veteran, whom she fired, whose early recordings she deleted and who she spoke ill of to the press. O’Connor convinced her label to let her produce the album herself, with the help of drummer John Reynolds, who was also the father of O’Connor’s first son, Jake, born at this time. When The Lion and the Cobra was released in 1987, the album went gold, received critical acclaim, and earned O’Connor his first Grammy nomination. O’Connor, who was one of the first female rock musicians to embrace hip-hop, also reached out to urban audiences with a remix of ” I Want Your (Hands on Me) in which MC Lyte participated.
But this is O’Connor’s next album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, released in 1990, which made the singer an international star, thanks to her haunting rendition of ” Nothing Compares 2 U by Prince (a song he originally wrote for his side project, The Family). The album was heavily inspired by O’Connor’s mother: ” The songs on this album are really about hershe said in 2009. Even the title came to me from a dream where she said to me: “I don’t want what I don’t have”. In my mind, even “Nothing Compares 2 U”, it was I who was thinking of her. » Critical success and double platinum disc, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got seemed like the start of a long and unpredictable career. But O’Connor’s music would never be as popular or celebrated again.
By 1990, O’Connor had become almost as well known for her unyielding public actions as she was for her music. She declined to appear as a musical guest on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by misogynist comedian Andrew Dice Clay. That same summer, she refused to have a New Jersey concert hall play the U.S. national anthem before a show; in response, some radio stations stopped playing music and Frank Sinatra threatened him ” kick ass “. With Public Enemy, she boycotted the 1991 Grammy Awards to protest the first Gulf War. But his most controversial act was yet to come.
In 1992, O’Connor released his third album, Am I Not Your Girl, a collection of lavishly orchestrated covers, mostly jazz and pre-rock pop standards, that leave critics and fans alike in awe. In October, shortly after the release of the album, she is the show’s musical guest. Saturday Night Live. She sings an a cappella version of ” War by Bob Marley, whose lyrics have been slightly edited to protest against sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. By singing the word evil she shows a photo of Pope John Paul II, which she then tears up. Saying ” Fight the real enemy », O’Connor then threw the pieces at the camera. The audience responded with silence.
The reaction was explosive, ranging from fierce outrage to dismissive mockery. SNL host Joe Pesci the following week threatened O’Connor, saying, ” I would have given him such a slap “. Even Madonna (perhaps a little envious that no matter how gifted a pop provocateur might supplant her) called O’Connor’s actions inappropriate and parodied the act on SNL in 1993. Just two weeks later her performance on SNL, O’Connor took the stage at Madison Square Garden to perform ” I Believe in You at a Bob Dylan tribute concert, where he could barely be heard above the screams of the audience, which was divided between supporters and detractors. She sings again War », defiantly.
With his new album failing to chart and public outcry becoming a distraction, O’Connor took some rest. For some, she would have even retired. In 1994, she released Universal Motherwhich includes an amazing version of “ All Apologies by Nirvana, but the album struggled to establish itself commercially and his career never stabilized. The only other album O’Connor would release in the 1990s would be the EP Gospel Oak in 1997. Meanwhile, her private life continues to be talked about. With Irish journalist John Waters, she publicly disputes custody of their daughter, Roisin (O’Connor’s second child). Then, in 1999, O’Connor was ordained a priest in a breakaway Catholic sect, the Tridentine Latin Church, under the name of Mother Bernadette Mary.
In 2000, O’Connor signed with Atlantic Records. His first album for the label, Faith and Courage, sounds like an attempt to regain commercial relevance, but with its overly broad cast of producers — from Wyclef Jean and Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs to Dave Stewart and Brian Eno — it comes across as sparsely focused. O’Connor pulled herself together musically with the Irish folk collection Sean Nos Nua in 2002, and an even more successful collection of reggae classics, Throw Down Your Armswith Jamaican blockbusters Sly and Robbie, in 2005.
O’Connor continued to record, releasing the albums Theology (2007), How About I Be Me (and You Be You)? (2012) and I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (2014). But the world paid more attention to his public statements than to his art. In 2013, O’Connor wrote a ” open letter much-discussed to Miley Cyrus, “ to send healthier messages to your peers… they and you are worth more than what is currently happening in your career “. Following Prince’s death in 2016, she called the late superstar (whom she apparently never got on with) ” long-time hard drug user and referred to Arsenio Hall as his ” dealer “.
Sinéad O’Connor reportedly suffered from mental health issues for years. On the Oprah Winfrey show in 2007, she said she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had attempted suicide in 1999, on her 33rd birthday. However, she reappeared on the show seven years later to say she had gotten several second opinions and believed she had been misdiagnosed. In November 2015, she posted what appeared to be a suicide note on her Facebook page, lashing out at her family members. When she disappeared during a bike ride in suburban Chicago in May 2016, there were fears for her life. A year-long stay in a trauma and addiction treatment program followed in 2020.
O’Connor’s legacy has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years thanks to her memoir and an acclaimed documentary, but tragedy struck just as quickly when the singer revealed that her 17-year-old son Shane died. died by suicide in January 2022, just days after disappearing from an Irish hospital. Sinéad O’Connor’s death came 18 months after that of his son.
Translated by the editor