Acclaimed and outspoken Irish singer Sinead O’Connor dies at 56

Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor, known for her 1990 global hit, Nothing Compares 2 U, has died at the age of 56 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Known for her shaved head and fierce voice, she shot to fame with her cover of Prince’s ballad ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’.

Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, known for her 1990 global hit, Nothing Compares 2 U, has died at the age of 56.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time,” Irish national broadcaster RTE quoted a statement from the singer’s family as saying on Wednesday.

She crashed onto the global music scene at the beginning of the ’90s with her mesmerising version of the song originally written by pop icon Prince, facing directly into the camera for the music video that has subsequently been viewed almost 400 million times on YouTube.

“Her music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, sharing his condolences with “all who loved her music”.

O’Connor changed the image of women in music in the early 1990s.

Her shaved head, pained expression, and shapeless wardrobe were seen by many young women as a direct challenge to popular culture’s long-prevailing notions of femininity and sexuality.

The gifted singer was known for speaking up about her struggles with mental health issues, especially after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her teenage son Shane died by suicide in 2022.

Stance against the Catholic Church

O’Connor was also vocal about her political stance against the Catholic Church. She will be remembered in some quarters for ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a television appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in October 1992.

For many years, she called for a full investigation into the extent of the church’s role in concealing child abuse by clergy.

In 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI apologised to Ireland to atone for decades of abuse, O’Connor condemned the apology for not going far enough and called for Catholics to boycott Mass until there was a full investigation into the Vatican’s role, which by 2018 was making international headlines.

“People assumed I didn’t believe in God. That’s not the case at all. I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation,” she wrote in the Washington Post in 2010.

O’Connor converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat, though continued to perform under the name Sinead O’Connor.

“I read chapter two of the Quran and I realised I’m home, and that I’ve been a Muslim all my life. There’s a way of thinking,” she said in an interview on RTE’s Late Late Show in September 2019.

“You can be a Muslim without actually being a Muslim as it’s a headset [mindset].”

Irish singer Sinead O'Connor performs during her concert at Akvarium Klub in Budapest, Hungary, 09 December 2019
Sinead O’Connor performs during her concert at Akvarium Klub in Budapest, Hungary, December 9, 2019 [File: Marton Monus/EPA-EFE]


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