Legendary Irish singer and activist Sinéad O’Connor has died, aged 56.
The news about the singer, who rose to the heights of her fame in the 90s and was best known for her cover of Prince’s song ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, was announced by her family. They said that they shared the news “with great sadness”, adding that “her family and friends are devastated”.
The news of her passing comes a year after her one of her four sons, Shane, took his life aged 17, in January 2022.
It is believed that O’Connor had been spending her time between Ireland and London over the past year, leaving behind a harrowing final tweet regarding her son’s passing.
“Been living as undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul,” she wrote. “’We were one soul in two halves.”
Countless friends and celebrities have posted tributes to Sinéad, with Irish President Michael D. Higgins giving thanks for her “extraordinarily beautiful, unique voice” and wishing her peace.
He added, “To those of us who had the privilege of knowing her, one couldn’t but always be struck by the depth of her fearless commitment to the important issues which she brought to public attention, no matter how uncomfortable those truths may have been.”
Of course, here he is referencing O’Connor’s staunch activism.
She had been loud in her social and political views, especially on religion, sex, feminism and war. Her protests were often peaceful but hard-hitting, including a performance on Saturday Night Live that got her banned by the broadcaster NBC.
The performance took place in 1992, and she performed a cover of Bob Marley’s ‘War’ as planned, before veering from the script and replacing some lyrics with the words “child abuse” before holding up a photo of Pope John Paul II and tearing it to pieces. Looking to the camera she said, “Fight the real enemy.”
There ended up being further protests against O’Connor in the US, but she was never apologetic for her stance. “Everyone wants a pop star, see?” she wrote in her 2021 memoir, Rememberings. “But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame.”
She told the New York Times in 2021, “I’m not sorry I did it. It was brilliant. But it was very traumatizing. It was open season on treating me like a crazy b-tch.”
O’Connor converted to Islam in 2018, changing her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat, but continuing to perform under her birth name.
A documentary was due to be released in late July about O’Connor, produced by Belfast-based filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson. She was one of the last people to speak to Sinéad before her passing.
Prior to her passing she told BBC’s Radio 4, “Our film really, for me, it was a love letter to Sinead. It was made over many, many years. And made because of the impact she’d had on me as a young girl growing up in Ireland.”
“Sinéad O’Connor’s voice and delivery was in so many different ways original, extraordinary and left one with a deep deep impression that to have accomplished all she did while carrying the burden which she did was a powerful achievement in its own way.”
There’s no denying that the powerhouse that was Sinéad O’Connor will be dearly missed.
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