Sinéad O’Connor – Banshee, Bold One, A Way Of Happening, A Mouth
...Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry... W.H. Auden
UPDATE: Wednesday, 10th January 2024
The official verdict’s been announced: Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor died of natural causes, according to a report in the New York Times. The powerhouse performer was found dead in her London apartment in July 2023. No other details have been released.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, O’Connor was no stranger to controversy, and she courted a great deal of it during her time in the limelight – circa l987-95. American Songwriter describes a famous altercation: “One of the many ways she asserted her integrity was when she refused to have the national anthem play before her show at Performing Arts Center in Saratoga, New York, in 1990 – much to the dismay of Frank Sinatra.” O’Connor told reporters she had nothing against America or its national anthem; in fact, she had nothing against any national anthem – she just didn’t believe they had anything to do with music or politics.
The aging Sinatra – another brash singer with strong opinions – had a few words for O’Connor, allegedly telling an audience of his own, “This must be one stupid broad. I’d kick her ass if she were a guy. She must beat her kids to stay in shape. ” It’s easy to guess what the Italian-American Catholic from Hoboken must have thought when, in one of O’Connor’s career-defining moments, she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II during a 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live.
“Fight the real enemy,” Sinéad said.
Sinead O'Connor - War (SNL 1992)www.youtube.com
Her career never really recovered from that incident, but O’Connor chose to look at things from her own unique perspective. In her 2021 memoirRememberings, she wrote: That’s not how I feel about it. I feel that having a number-one record derailed my career and my tearing the photo put me back on the right track.” However one chooses to interpret the aftermath of the Papal picture-tearing, one thing is clear.
Sinéad was right. She wasright about the Catholic Church and its systemic sexual abuse. She was right about the veil of secrecy thrown over the subject, right about the ways in which the perpetrators were protected and the victims demonized. Having been abused herself, Sinead knew steps had to be taken to stop abuse and punish abusers.
Was Sinéad drastic, headstrong, not deferential enough? Tough. She realized – like Ol’ BlueEyes – that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. And, in the end, neither of them was interested in being forgiven. Understood, yes – but not forgiven.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 9th August 2023
On Tuesday, August 8th, Sinéad O'Connor was buried in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ireland.According to the Irish Mirror, "a funeral cortege [moved] along the seafront in Bray, past Sinead’s former home, Montebello, which she had lived in for the last 15 years.
The Gardai [Irish Police] asked "that people gather, if they would like to say a last goodbye to Sinéad from 10.30am on Tuesday morning along the Bray Seafront.” Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor's former home of Bray for her funeral.
On Monday, August 7, a larger-than-life installation paying tribute to the late singer appeared on an Irish hillside in Bray, the town where her funeral was held.
UPDATE: Thursday, 27th July 2023
You’ve heard the news by now...Irish Singer and Musician Sinéad O’Connor is dead at the age of 56.
On Thursday, a Scotland Yard spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE that "a 56-year-old woman was found ‘unresponsive’ and pronounced dead" at a home in South East London a day prior. “The death is not being treated as suspicious," the spokesperson said.
There’s no medical cause of death given for O’Connor. According to London Inner South Coroner’s Court, an autopsy is now set to be carried out, and may not be available for several weeks.
Born in Ireland in 1966, O’Connor tasted worldwide fame in 1990 with her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” For many, that remains her best-known song. For others, it’s only one glittering example of the passion and intensity she brought to her music. Her talent was undeniable. So, it turned out, were the demons that haunted her, that drove her from country to country, rock to folk to reggae, religion to belief system to religion.
Sinéad O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U (Live in Europe 1990)www.youtube.com
For a while, music served as a means of expressing and assuaging her turmoil, rage, and her pain. Those first two incandescent albums, The Lion and The Cobra (1987) and I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990), are her essential artistic legacy, along with the earth-shattering “Fire on Babylon,” a 13-minute love/hate song to her mother, Ireland, our great spinning planet.
Sinéad O'Connor - Fire on Babylon- Live - Pinkpop 1995www.youtube.com
In these majestic works, O’Connor wrestles with, mocks, implores, supplicates, and embodies her demons, and her struggle is nothing less than exhilarating. And, yes, inspiring.
Controversy followed her. When she pointed an accusatory finger at the Catholic Church’s systemic and shameful sexual abuse of children, she suffered the fate of so many truthtellers before her and was pilloried. Familial and institutional abuse (at the hands of her mother and during her time in Ireland’s infamous Magdalene Laundries); the widespread sexism of the music industry; the profoundly disrupting “benefits” of fame – all took a toll on her career and on her well-being.
She’d be the first to admit her lifelong battle with mental health issues. That’s why the news of her death, sad as it is, is not entirely unexpected. She’d been drawn to suicidal ideation on more than one occasion; her seventeen-year-old son Shane killed himself last year. I won’t be surprised if the cause of her death is ultimately revealed as suicide. The price exacted by mental illness – and by society’s unwillingness to acknowledge its existence – is truly staggering.
Sinead O'Connor Photo by Sebastian Silva (EPA/Shutterstock)
In the autumn of 1987, the “Troy” video completely blasted MTV’s bland, quotidian fare. Who was this raw, rare, unconventional figure? Just what was Sinead’s torrent of gorgeous, angry, apocalyptic sound all about? Where did it come from? And where will it take the world?
Sinead O'Connor - Troy (Official Music Video)www.youtube.com
W. H Auden’s poem “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” contains these lines:
...Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
One hopes the hurt has ended. O’Connor’s poetry survives, a way of happening, a mouth.
We at Popdust adore Sinead. She's been a beacon through the hard times, the tough days. This one’s for...the Mighty Kevin.