Sinéad O'Connor: she just wanted to be heard

Restless, subversive, controversial, inconvenient. And also committed, fighter, woman of causes. Above all an incomparable voice and talent. Sinéad O'Connor is all of these. She had 56 years old and died this Wednesday, 26.

Jul 27, 2023 - 03:13
Sinéad O'Connor: she just wanted to be heard
Image by Sinéad O'Connor official Facebook

She has known the dark side of existence and the glow of success. Sinead O'Connor, died today at the age of 56, has born on December 8, 1966, in Glenageary, County Dublin, Ireland. Singer-songwriter known for her powerful voice, distinctive style, and thought-provoking music, she rose to prominence in the late 1980s and became an icon of alternative and emotional music.

Her breakthrough came in 1987 with the release of her debut album, "The Lion and the Cobra," which featured the hit single "Mandinka" and the unforgettable ballad "Nothing Compares 2 U." The latter, a Prince-penned song, catapulted her to international fame, reaching number one on charts around the world and earning her a Grammy Award nomination.

Throughout her career, Sinead O'Connor's music often explored themes of love, loss, spirituality, and social issues. She fearlessly used her platform to address controversial subjects and advocate for causes she believed in, making her both admired and sometimes controversial in the public eye.

Her subsequent albums, including "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got," "Universal Mother," and "Faith and Courage," continued to showcase her distinctive voice and emotionally charged songwriting. She received critical acclaim and amassed a dedicated fan base.

Apart from her musical achievements, Sinead O'Connor has been open about her personal struggles, including mental health issues and difficulties with the music industry. Her willingness to be candid about her challenges has also garnered attention and sparked discussions about mental health and the treatment of artists.

Over the years, Sinead O'Connor's career has evolved, and she remains an influential figure in the music industry. While there have been ups and downs, her impact on music and her legacy as an artist and activist continue to resonate with fans and fellow musicians alike.


A woman of causes

Throughout her career, Sinead O'Connor has been an outspoken advocate for various social and political matters. Some of the main issues she has addressed and advocated for include:

  • Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: One of the most significant issues that Sinead O'Connor spoke out against was the sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church. Her 1992 protest on "Saturday Night Live," where she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II, was a direct response to the Church's handling of abuse cases and its historical treatment of women and children. She used her platform to draw attention to this important issue and call for accountability and justice.

  • Women's Rights: Sinead O'Connor has been a vocal advocate for women's rights and gender equality. She openly challenged patriarchal norms and advocated for women's empowerment. Her music often tackled themes related to gender roles, women's autonomy, and the challenges women face in society.

  • Irish Politics and Nationalism: As an Irish artist, Sinead O'Connor has addressed political issues related to her homeland. She has expressed her views on Irish nationalism, the conflict in Northern Ireland, and the need for peace and reconciliation in the region.

  • LGBTQ+ Rights: Sinead O'Connor has been an ally and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. She has publicly expressed her support for the LGBTQ+ community and has spoken out against discrimination and homophobia.

  • Anti-War Activism: Sinead O'Connor has been vocal about her opposition to war and has called for peace and understanding between nations. She has used her music and public appearances to advocate for non-violent solutions to conflicts.

  • Mental Health Advocacy: Over the years, Sinead O'Connor has been candid about her struggles with mental health issues. She has used her own experiences to raise awareness about mental health challenges and advocate for improved support and understanding for those dealing with mental illness.

  • Homelessness and Social Issues: Sinead O'Connor has also highlighted issues of homelessness and poverty. She has used her platform to draw attention to the plight of vulnerable populations and called for better social policies to address these challenges.

Sinead O'Connor's outspoken nature and activism have sometimes sparked controversy and criticism, but she has remained committed to using her voice and music to address important social and political matters close to her heart. Her advocacy has earned her both devoted supporters and detractors, but she has consistently used her platform to raise awareness and spark discussions about critical issues.


Controversy with the Pope

The controversy involving Sinead O'Connor and the Pope occurred during a memorable incident at the end of her performance on the American TV show "Saturday Night Live" on October 3, 1992. After singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley's song "War," which is a protest song against oppression, she took out a photo of Pope John Paul II, who was the Pope at that time, and tore it into pieces while saying, "Fight the real enemy!"

This act was a direct protest against the Catholic Church's handling of cases of sexual abuse by clergy and the Church's historical treatment of women and children. The incident generated an immense amount of controversy and criticism. Many people were offended and saw her actions as disrespectful, sacrilegious, and even blasphemous. Sinead O'Connor faced significant backlash from various religious groups, the media, and some members of the public.

While the incident did have an impact on her career, it's important to note that Sinead O'Connor's career was already facing challenges due to other controversies and issues, including her outspokenness on various social and political matters. The incident on "Saturday Night Live" added to the negative perception some people had of her, and her commercial success waned in the years following the incident.

However, it is also worth noting that the controversy and her actions resonated with some individuals who supported her stance on addressing important social issues and speaking out against abuse and injustice. Despite the backlash, Sinead O'Connor continued to make music and remained a respected figure among her loyal fan base and those who admired her courage to stand up for her beliefs.

In the years that followed, Sinead O'Connor's career had its ups and downs, with varying degrees of commercial success, but she remained an influential and respected artist in the music industry. As with any controversial figure, opinions on the impact of the incident on her career are varied, and different people may have different perspectives on how it affected her overall trajectory.


Last years

Sinead announced in June 2021 a new album named No Veteran Dies Alone as her last, and that she was retiring from music, but she retracted the statement days later, and announced that her scheduled 2022 tour would go ahead.

But her son Shane died by suicide at the age of 17 on 7 January 2022, and she canceled her tour and the new album was postponed indefinitely. By the time of her death in 2023, the album was "emotional and really personal" and was complete but for one song, according to the producer David Holmes.

In February 2023, O'Connor shared a version of "The Skye Boat Song", a 19th-century Scottish adaptation of a 1782 Gaelic song, which is also the theme for the fantasy drama series Outlander, and the following month she was awarded with the inaugural Choice Music Prize Classic Irish Album by the Irish broadcaster RTÉ for her 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.

Today, she was found dead at her flat in Herne Hill, South London. The cause of death was not stated.



During her life, Sinéad recorded ten great studio albums:

  1. The Lion and the Cobra (1987):

    • Notable Tracks: "Mandinka," "Troy," "I Want Your (Hands on Me)," "Jerusalem"
  2. I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (1990):

    • Notable Tracks: "Nothing Compares 2 U," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "Three Babies," "Black Boys on Mopeds"
  3. Am I Not Your Girl? (1992):

    • This album featured covers of classic jazz and pop standards.
  4. Universal Mother (1994):

    • Notable Tracks: "Fire on Babylon," "Thank You for Hearing Me," "Red Football"
  5. Faith and Courage (2000):

    • Notable Tracks: "No Man's Woman," "Jealous," "Daddy I'm Fine," "The Lamb's Book of Life"
  6. Sean-Nós Nua (2002):

    • This album showcased traditional Irish folk songs.
  7. Throw Down Your Arms (2005):

    • This album consisted of reggae covers.
  8. Theology (2007):

    • Notable Tracks: "Something Beautiful," "Whomsoever Dwells," "Take Off Your Shoes"
  9. How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? (2012):

    • Notable Tracks: "4th and Vine," "Reason with Me," "Take Off Your Shoes"
  10. I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss (2014):

    • The album was originally to be called The Vishnu Room after the song of the same name, but was changed, along with its original cover design, shortly before release in support of the controversial "Ban Bossy" campaign.

Sinead O'Connor has had a dynamic career with multiple albums that explore a wide range of musical styles and themes. Besides her studio albums, she has released various singles, live recordings, and collaborative projects over the years.

Ana Dedeus Member of EA Coordination Team