Home News Community ‘Beyond compare’: Sinead O’ Connor dies

‘Beyond compare’: Sinead O’ Connor dies

Tributes have been flooding in for iconic Irish singer Sinead O’Connor who has died at the age of 56.

Sinead O’Connor has been called “the greatest voice of her generation” among the tributes following the announcement of her death last Wednesday.

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 cause of her death has yet to be confirmed.

President Michael D Higgins spoke of her fearless commitment to important issues and said Ireland had lost one of its greatest performers.

The Dublin-born singer was propelled to international stardom in 1990 with her version of the hit ballad Nothing Compares 2 U.

President Michael D Higgins said: “What Ireland has lost at such a relatively young age is one of our greatest and most gifted composers, songwriters and performers of recent decades, one who had a unique talent and extraordinary connection with her audience, all of whom held such love and warmth for her.

“The way in which she was able to move across the different forms of the arts was a singular achievement, as was the way her voice went around the world and how it was received.”

Sinead O’Connor’s  star exploded in the late 1980s/ early 90s when her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got went to number one all around the world.

Nothing Compares 2 U, her cover of a Prince song, would become iconic.

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But controversy would sometimes overshadow her talent.

She refused to perform at an American music festival in 1990 if they played the American national anthem before she took to the stage and was perceived as being anti- American.

The backlash included Frank Sinatra saying he would ‘kick her in the ass’.

When she tore up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live in 1992 to make a statement about sexual abuse in the church, she would be vilified.

Born Sinead Marie Bernadette O’Connor in Glenageary, County Dublin, in December 1966, the singer had a difficult childhood.

At the age of 15, she was placed in a Magdalene asylum for shoplifting and truancy.

But this would lead to her pursuing her musical talent with the encouragement of a nun in the home.

She released her first critically acclaimed album The Lion And The Cobra in 1987.

It was her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which brought her global fame with her iconic cover of Prince’s hit.

Nothing Compares 2 U earned her multiple Grammy Award nominations including for the prestigious record of the year category, as well as best female pop vocal performance and best music video.

In 1991, she was named artist of the year by Rolling Stone magazine and took home the Brit Award for international female solo artist.

She released a further eight studio albums, the latest being 2014’s I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss.

In 2014, she revealed she had joined Sinn Féin and called for leader Gerry Adams to stand down.

She converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat, though she carried on performing under the name Sinéad O’Connor.

Her death comes after her son Shane passed away last year aged 17. His body was recovered in the Bray area of Wicklow, Ireland, after he was reported missing having escaped from a hospital while on suicide watch.

In her last tweet Sinead said she had been an ‘undead night creature’ since Shane’s suicide.

She added: “He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally.”

Tributes for O’Connor came from across the genres of music, Irish society and wider afield.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “really sorry” to hear of O’Connor’s death, saying her music was “loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare”.

Tánaiste Micheal Martin hailed O’Connor as “one of our greatest musical icons and someone deeply loved by the people of Ireland, and beyond”.

Aslan, who collaborated with O’Connor on Up In Arms in 2001, paid tribute.

The band’s lead singer, Christy Dignam, died in June.

A post on the band’s Facebook page read: “Two Legends taken from us so closely together… No words… Rest in Peace Sinead.”

Kathryn Ferguson, who directed the documentary Nothing Compares, told BBC Breakfast: “Obviously people adored everything that she wrote and sang, but then when she also started to use her platform to speak out she just became this incredibly potent figure for speaking truth to power and she was really adored and looked up to for that.”

“She was just this huge icon to all of us, someone that we hugely admired and looked up to.

“And the big reason that I wanted to make the film at all was because of the impact she had on me as a young Irish teenager growing up, and the impact she had and the emotional dent that was left when I and my friends witnessed what then went on to her, happened to her, in the mid 90s and the backlash that she, that she endured.”

Broadcaster Dave Fanning said: “Her prescience was unbelievable because she always made bold public statements about child abuse and organised religion.

“She said Vatican was a nest of devils and a lot of people were going ‘What is wrong with this woman?’

“And ten years later, when the Pope came out and said, Well, actually, there’s been a lot of bad things, and in the next 20 years it was ten times even worse, she was 100% correct.

“And she was one of the first types of people that we ever heard say that. And don’t forget  in Britain we had cheeky chappy Jimmy Savile with a cigar, nobody knew anything.”

Victoria Mary Clarke, the wife of The Pogues star Shane MacGowan, paid tribute for her and her husband. She thanked O’Connor for her “love and friendship”.

Posting a photo on Twitter of MacGowan and O’Connor together from their younger years, she wrote: “We don’t really have words for this but we want to thank you Sinead.

“For your love and your friendship and your compassion and your humour and your incredible music.

“We pray that you are at peace now with your beautiful boy. Love Victoria and Shane.”

She added: “She told outrageous jokes at the most inappropriate times and she cracked me up! There will never be anyone even remotely like her.”

Author Marian Keyes described the news as “heartbreaking”, describing the singer as an “amazing, brave, beautiful, unique wonder”, while writer Caitlin Moran said Ms O’Connor was “THE greatest voice of her generation, no contest” and “fearless”.

Comedian Dara O’Briain paid tribute, writing: “Ah s****, Sinead O’Connor has died.

“That’s just very sad news. Poor thing. I hope she realised how much love there was for her.”

Boy George simply wrote: “Devastated. Love you, Sinead!”

Laura Whitmore wrote: “Sinead was the biggest star I ever met. And I was so starstruck I barely spoke.

“In many ways a star that shone so bright it was probably hard to cope having that much talent. The most beautiful voice, face and aura.

“As an Irish woman growing up in the 90s she was everything, showing girls were cool, Irish women could be recognised globally and shaved heads not just for guys – though not a look I could carry off.

“My mam told everyone who visited Sinead lived on our road – she was our royalty. Rest in peace Queen x”.

Former Radio 1 DJ and author Annie MacManus: “My heart’s broken for Sinéad’s family. There’ll be so many obituaries now, and long keening essays on her voice and her talent and her rage and her passion and her righteousness.

“I’d love to see a public event, where every person who she ever touched with her music could gather for a few hours to honour her.

“I would like to think it would shut down a city or two. I hope that all the old adages about being ‘at peace’ when one dies can be true for Sinéad O’Connor.”

MMA star Conor McGregor, who walked out to Sinead’s The Foggy Dew, said “the world has lost an artist with the voice of an angel”.

“Ireland has lost an iconic voice and one of our absolute finest, by a long shot. And I have lost a friend.

“Sinead’s music will live on and continue to inspire! Rest In Peace, Sinead you are home with your son I am sure.

O’Connor recently lent her vocals to the theme song to Scottish time travel drama Outlander.

Caitriona Balfe, who stars in Outlander, said in Instagram “I hope you are at peace … and with your baby boy. Thank you for sharing your soul with us and soothing us with your incredible voice beautiful Sinéad.”

Morrissey hit out at the tributes pouring in asking where was all this support when she was alive.

He said: “She was dropped by her label after selling 7 million albums for them.

“She became crazed, yes, but uninteresting, never. She had done nothing wrong.

“She had proud vulnerability… and there is a certain music industry hatred for singers who don’t ‘fit in’ (this I know only too well), and they are never praised until death – when, finally, they can’t answer back.”

He continued: “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.

“Why is ANYBODY surprised that Sinead O’Connor is dead?

“Who cared enough to save Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday?

“Where do you go when death can be the best outcome? Was this music madness worth Sinead’s life?

“No, it wasn’t. She was a challenge, and she couldn’t be boxed-up, and she had the courage to speak when everyone else stayed safely silent.

“She was harassed simply for being herself. Her eyes finally closed in search of a soul she could call her own.”

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said: “Ireland has lost one of our most powerful and successful singer, songwriter and female artists.

“A big loss not least to her family & friends, but all her many followers across the world.”

Mary Black described Sinéad O’Connor as “a leader” for young Irish artists.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Black said: “She sang with such truth.

“She was fragile and fearful, but fearless as well, in that when she felt something was wrong or when she felt she needed to speak, she would speak.

“And that was an unusual trait in a woman, particularly going back 20 years when she was starting out.

“It was something that other women began to admire and say ‘maybe we can be more like that’.”

Singer Brian Kennedy said that in “one breath” Sinéad O’Connor “was a lioness and a lamb”.

Describing her voice as “other wordly”, he said she would “never have known that she touched so many people lives. I think she was a very solidary person, ultimately … it’s such a dichotomy to be such a public figure and yet to feel so alone”.

Former bass player with The Pogues Cait O’Riordan said: “I really don’t think she knew how loved she was”.

She said “there’s so many what ifs with Sinéad” adding that she was someone who came along “once in a generation”.

Billy Bragg described her as “braver than brave”.

Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan posted on Instagram, saying she was “fiercely honest and sweet and funny.

He wrote: “She was talented in ways I’m not sure she completely understood. But Sinead stands alone as a figure from our generation who was always true to the piercing voice within and without. And for that I will always admire and respect her.

“And never forget that she was once cancelled for an act of simple resistance. Her crime? Tearing up a photo.”

Oscar winner Russell Crowe shared a story about meeting her while working in Ireland last year and enjoying a conversation outside a pub.

He wrote: “In a conversation without fences we roamed through the recent Dublin heatwave, local politics, American politics, the ongoing fight for indigenous recognition in many places, but particularly in Australia, her warm memory of New Zealand, faith, music, movies and her brother the writer.

“I had the opportunity to tell her she was a hero of mine.

“What an amazing woman. Peace be with your courageous heart Sinéad.”

American rapper and actor Ice T wrote: “Respect to Sinead… She stood for something… Unlike most people… Rest Easy.”

Tim Burgess, the lead singer of The Charlatans, said O’Connor was the “true embodiment of a punk spirit”.

“She did not compromise and that made her life more of a struggle. Hoping that she has found peace.”

O’Connor was found unresponsive at her home in London and pronounced dead at the scene.

Her death is not being treated as suspicious.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: “Police were called at 11.18am on Wednesday 26 July to reports of an unresponsive woman at a residential address in the SE24 area.

“Officers attended. A 56-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

O’Connor had told her fans that she had recently moved back to London after a 23-year absence – and she was “very happy to be home”.

She said she was finishing an album that was going to be released early next year – and planned to launch a world tour spanning Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US.

She is survived by her three children.

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