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RIP Sinead O’Connor. She was 56.

Sinead O’Connor, the immensely talented but deeply troubled Irish singer, has passed away.

I met her just the one time back in early 1988, when she was on a promo tour for her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra. She was a soft-spoken yet intense 19-year-old, dressed in army fatigues and Doc Martens, wearing a button that read “F*CK.” I remember thinking “You do not want to mess with this woman.” She was a serious punk–and it wasn’t just the shaved head (courtesy of a Greek barber when her record company asked her to soften her image), either.

Sinead was never very comfortable with being famous, something that was exacerbated by a rough childhood–there was plenty of abuse–and a combination of PTSD/manic depression/borderline personality disorder that often sent her spiraling to suicidal depths.

After being sent to a Magdalene Asylum (an institution for “troubled and unruly woman” with a long, infamous history) at the age of 15, she started writing music. A few years later, she was discovered by the drummer of an Irish band called In Tua Nua. That led to co-writing a song with the group, a stint with a group called Ton Ton Macoute, and a guest vocal on a song on The Captive soundtrack, written by The Edge of U2. She was then signed to a solo record deal, resulting in The Lion and The Cobra. And what a record.

While the music was astounding–they do NOT make people like Sinead, anymore–her personal life was always…complicated.

  • During the sessions for the first album, she became pregnant with the child of session drummer, John Reynolds. They had a son, Jake, and were married in 1987.
  • She did not like the recorded music industry, refusing to show up for the Grammy Awards. It wasn’t just the image thing, either. She had opinions and was completely unfiltered. She eventually was tagged as “difficult” and was silently blackballed by the American industry. After her second album, she never had another hit.
  • She waged war on the Catholic Church for decades. On October 3, 1992, she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a performance on Saturday Night Live in protest of the church’s sex abuse scandals with children. That got her banned from the show. A steamroller was hired to crush a pile of her CDs and tapes in front of her record company’s office in New York.
  • When she refused to let the American national anthem be played before one of her shows, Frank Sinatra later said he’d like to “kick in the ass.”
  • In the late 90s, she was ordained as a priest in Catholic offshoot  Latin Tridentine/Irish Catholic and Apostolic Church with the name Mother Bernadette Mary.
  • In 2018, she converted to Islam, adopting the name Shuhada’ Sadaqat Davitt. At the time of her death, she was using the name Sinead Marie-Bernard Aiobheen O’Connor when she presented herself professionally and on social media.
  • Her greatest hit was “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the Prince-written song from her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. The video was shot on the outskirts of Paris. That one tear…
  • Her sexuality was fluid. She had relationships with men but identified as a lesbian.
  • She attempted suicide (or was suspected of attempting it) several times. On her 33rd birthday in 1999, she swallowed 20 Valium pills but was rescued just in time.
  • Peter Gabriel was one person who did his best to help. They may have even had a thing.
  • Sinead had four children through four different marriages, some of which resulted in custody battles.
  • She underwent an hysterectomy in 2015 after years of gynecological problems, mostly with endometriosis. The resulting hormonal issues led to suicidal depression.
  • In November 2015, there was a distressing post on Facebook that raised fears of a deliberate overdose in a hotel room. She was later found safe.
  • In 2016, she went missing from Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago where she’d been living, prompting a police search after someone passed along a tip that she was going to jump off a bridge. She turned up fine.
  • She was used by Arsenio Hall for US$5 million when she posted on Facebook that he’d been giving Prince drugs “over the decades.”
  • In August 2017, there was concern when she lost custody of her son Shane. A post on Facebook said she wanted to kill herself.
  • She retired from performing 2021.
  • Her third child, Shane, committed suicide at the age of 17 on January 7, 2022. That sent her into another suicidal depression.

An album had apparently been completed at the time of her death with a projected 2024 release date. She also had plans to tour in 2024 and 2025 and appeared to be looking forward to the future.

Her family confirmed her death with this statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

Her cause of death has yet to be revealed.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38123 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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