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Thank You For Hearing Me: The Life and Times of Sinéad O’Connor

todayJuly 28, 2023


Born on December 8, 1966, in Dublin, Ireland, Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor displayed her musical talents from an early age. In her teenage years, she was the lead vocalist of a band called Ton Ton Macoute, and by 1986, she had released her debut solo album, “The Lion and the Cobra,” which showcased her extraordinary style. However, it was her second album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” released in 1990, that propelled her to international heights.

“Nothing Compares 2 U,” a hauntingly beautiful ballad from the album, written by Prince, became an instant hit, catapulting Sinéad to superstardom. The song’s emotional depth and her emotive performance earned her critical acclaim, a Grammy nomination, and a permanent place in the hearts of millions worldwide.

We lost the voice of a revolution on July 26, 2023. It’s important to not dwell on this, but what Sinéad, later Shuhada’ Sadaqat, stood for.

© Chrysalis Records Ltd.

In a male-dominated music industry, O’Connor unapologetically defied societal norms, refusing to be constrained by our conventions or expectations. Simply her distinctive bald head became an emblem of defiance against traditional beauty standards, a courageous act at a time when the emphasis on appearance in the entertainment world was overwhelming. She consistently tackled issues such as domestic abuse, reproductive rights, and gender equality through her music and various public statements (yes, even that one…). She championed the idea that women should not be silenced and had the right to express themselves openly, even when their opinions challenged the status quo.

Whatever it may bring, I will live by my own policies. I will sleep with a clear conscience. I will sleep in peace.

Perhaps the defining moment in Sinéad O’Connor’s career to most came during a performance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1992. After covering Bob Marley’s “War,” she displayed a photo of Pope John Paul II and, in a bold act of protest, tore the photo into pieces, proclaiming, “Fight the real enemy.” This act sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from many corners of society, as well as the entertainment industry, but it underlined O’Connor’s unwavering commitment to speaking truth to power, regardless of the consequences.

Frank Sinatra, performing live in concert, stated that he wanted to assault O’Connor (this was later confirmed by The Post). The next week’s “SNL” host, Joe “Goodfella” Pesci, talked about “smack[ing]” O’Connor. Madonna condemned her, stating she went too far.  At Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary show, O’Connor was so heavily booed that her set had to be postponed. Nevertheless, she continued to sing as loud (and as proud) as ever.

O’Connor was awarded the World Peace Prize in 2012 for her significant contributions to peace and social justice.

(c) Man Alive!
© Man Alive!

However, she never again regained the spotlight after the “SNL” protest. O’Connor turned down lucrative opportunities, rejected the pressures of commercial success, and fearlessly followed her own artistic vision, often at the expense of mainstream acceptance. In both life and music, she emphasized the importance of authenticity and the need to be true to oneself, irrespective of the world’s external expectations. This unwavering dedication to her beliefs set her apart as a rare artist willing to prioritize truth and integrity over fame and fortune.

They broke my heart and they killed me, but I didn’t die. They tried to bury me, they didn’t realize I was a seed.

The strength doesn’t stop there. On January 7, 2022, O’Connor’s 17-year-old son, Shane, was reported missing from Newbridge, County Kildare. He was tragically found deceased by the Gardaí in the Bray/Shankill area of Dublin. Sinéad O’Connor, the grieving, loving mother, never lacked courage to speak out about the challenges her son had faced and the inadequacies of the systems meant to support him.

© Man Alive!

Morrissey, in an essay published to his website, wrote the perfect conclusion, so I leave you with this:

She had only so much “self” to give. She was dropped by her label after selling 7 million albums for them. […] She had done nothing wrong. She had proud vulnerability and there is a certain music industry hatred for singers who don’t ‘fit in’ […]. They are never praised until death, when, finally, they can’t answer back. The cruel playpen of fame gushes with praise for Sinéad today, with the usual moronic labels of “icon” and “legend”. You praise her now only because it is too late. You hadn’t the guts to support her when she was alive and she was looking for you. The press will label artists as pests because of what they withhold and they would call Sinead sad, fat, shocking, insane, oh but not today! Music CEOs who had put on their most charming smile as they refused her for their roster are queuing-up to call her a “feminist icon”, and 15 minute celebrities and goblins from […] record labels […] are squeezing onto Twitter to twitter their jibber-jabber … when it was YOU who talked Sinead into giving up because she refused to be labelled, and she was degraded, as those few who move the world are always degraded. […] Her eyes finally closed in search of a soul she could call her own.

In a special collaboration, Her Voice (with Sky) and Britwaves (with Jace) will combine to pay their respects to the voice of a century. Tune in to 91.3FM Real College Radio on two occasions: the first airing will take place on Thursday, July 28th, at 4 pm, serving as the special introduction to Her Voice. This will be followed by a second broadcast on Tuesday, August 1st, at 12 pm, as the conclusion of Britwaves. Join us as we commemorate the remarkable musical legacy of Sinéad O’Connor, an artist whose impact on the world of music remains unparalleled.

Written by: Jace