Sinéad O’Connor Dies At 56

Posted July 26, 2023 by with 7 comments

No cause of death has been reported, but Sinéad O’Connor, the iconic singer and outspoken critic of the Catholic church’s sexual abuse of children, has died at the age of 56. As first reported by The Irish Times:

Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor has died at the age of 56, her family has announced.

In a statement, the singer’s family said: “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 acclaimed Dublin performer released 10 studio albums, while her song Nothing Compares 2 U was named the number one world single in 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards.

O’Connor is survived by three children. A fourth child, Shane, committed suicide last year, and O’Connor struggled to recover from his death.

If you came of age in the early 1990’s, you’ll recall that Sinéad O’Connor was everywhere, and she was literally inescapable throughout the summer of 1990 when the music video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” aired nonstop on MTV. But before that, her introduction to American audiences was on the Grammys in 1989, when she performed “Mandinka”:

By the next year, O’Connor was a household name, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” won Best Female Video and Video Of The Year at the 1990 VMAs, beating “Vogue” in both categories. It was bold of VMA voters to pick a relatively unknown talent over Madonna (who was at the peak of her career), but it was probably the right call. Here was the Best Female Video win:

O’Connor’s career was essentially ended less than two years later after she went on Saturday Night Live and, at the end of her performance, tore up a picture of the man running the largest child sexual abuse ring in world history:

O’Connor was ahead of everyone on calling out the Catholic church’s abuse of children, so what a sickening tragedy that she became the villain after this. I remember everyone either making fun of her or labeling her as “crazy” in the days following SNL, but she was of course right to rip up the photo of John Paul II. While it’s sad that it destroyed her career, she was unhappy in the music industry, so maybe she was ready to leave one way or the other.

O’Connor struggled publicly with mental health issues over the last 20 years, but she would sporadically appear to be doing OK when promoting new albums, and she even published a memoir in 2021. While the “Nothing Compares 2 U” video in 1990 leaves an indelible mark in music history, I love watching the beautiful 2019 live version below, on Ireland’s Late Late Show. Near the end, her slight smile and wave is almost devastating, but there’s still a light in her eyes that tells me she always wanted to be OK, or that she was trying to be OK. I hope she is now.