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TRIBUTE: Sinéad O’Connor

Sinéad O’Connor has died at the age of 56. This shocking news broke just before 7.00pm on Wednesday evening and was confirmed in a statement from the Irish singer’s family shortly thereafter.

“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.”

The Dublin performer, who changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat in 2018 when she converted to Islam, released 10 studio albums over the course of her recording career, the second of which, 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got sold more than seven million copies. It was for this record that earlier this year O’Connor had received the inaugural award for classic Irish album at the RTÉ Choice Music Prize awards.

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got contains what is unquestionably Sinéad O’Connor’s most famous song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U.’ Written by Prince, the song was one of the best-selling singles in the world in 1990 and topped the charts in many countries including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.


All accounts would indicate that Sinéad O’Connor struggled with the success that this record brought her. She boycotted the following year’s Grammy Awards ceremony as a protest against the music industry’s “false and destructive materialistic values.” Within two years she had not only barred the playing of the American national anthem before one of her shows in New Jersey due to her abhorrence of nationalism, but she had also ripped up a picture of the pope on US TV as a protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It would be an act that effectively derailed her career in the process. 

Sinéad O’Connor was mostly demonised for these actions. She should, however, have been applauded for the courage that she showed in the face of such adversity as she sought to continue with her career. And by speaking out against institutions and giving a voice to those who otherwise did not have one, she displayed great strength and conviction. She consistently spoke out in support of the dispossessed, the vulnerable, and the disenfranchised. As recently as this year’s RTÉ Choice Music Prize awards ceremony, O’Connor dedicated her win to Ireland’s refugee community. “You’re very welcome in Ireland,” she said. “I love you very much and I wish you happiness.”

Much has also been written about the years of ongoing psychological turmoil that Sinéad O’Connor endured and she herself regularly disclosed disturbing personal details about her mental health, relationships, and family. But I prefer to remember her for the second and final time that I was privileged to have seen her in concert. I had initially seen her some six years previously in an incredibly packed Acoustic tent at Glastonbury Festival, but my abiding memory of Sinéad O’Connor is from when she played on the Friday evening at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2014. She opened with a spellbinding cover of John Grant’s ‘Queen of Denmark’ and ended 13 songs later with an imperious reading of ‘Streetcars.’ Tucked away in the middle of that set, as if to somehow avoid detection, was ‘Nothing Compares 2 U.’  To hear her sing this song live was absolutely breathtaking, as haunting an expression of lost love as you are ever likely to experience, and one that captured all of Sinéad O’Connor’s innate vulnerability and fearless power. 


Photos of Sinéad O’Connor at Cambridge Folk Festival on 1st August 2014: Simon Godley

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.