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Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor ( ) (also pronounced "Shih - Nayd") (born 8 December 1966) is an Irishmarker singer-songwriter. She rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album The Lion and the Cobra and achieved worldwide success in 1990 with a cover of the song "Nothing Compares 2 U". Since then she has regularly courted controversy with her views on religion, while still maintaining a singing career.

Early life

Sinéad O'Connor was born in Glenagearymarker Dublinmarker and was named after Sinéad de Valera, wife of Irish President Éamon de Valera and mother of the doctor presiding over the delivery, and Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. She is the middle of five children, sister to Joseph, Eimear, John, and Eoin. Joseph O'Connor is a novelist.

Her parents are Sean O'Connor, a structural engineer later turned barrister, and Marie O'Connor. The couple married young and had a troubled relationship, separating when Sinéad was eight. The three eldest children went to live with their mother, where O'Connor claims they were subjected to frequent physical abuse. Her song "Fire on Babylon" is about the effects of her own child abuse, and she has consistently advocated on behalf of abused children. Sean O'Connor's efforts to secure custody of his children in a country which routinely gave custody to the mother and prohibited divorce motivated him to become chairman of the Divorce Action Group and a prominent public spokesman. At one point, he even debated his own wife on the subject on a radio show.

In 1979, O'Connor left her mother and went to live with her father and his new wife. However, her shoplifting and truancy led to her being placed in a reform school at age 15, the Grianán Training Centre run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. In some ways, she thrived there, especially in writing and music, but she also chafed under the imposed conformity. Unruly students there were sometimes sent to sleep in the adjoining nursing home, an experience of which she later commented, "I have never — and probably will never — experience such panic and terror and agony over anything."

One of the volunteers at Grianan was the sister of Paul Byrne, drummer for the band In Tua Nua, who heard O'Connor singing "Evergreen" by Barbra Streisand. She recorded a song with them called "Take My Hand" but they felt that at 15, she was too young to join the band.

In 1983, her father sent her to Newtown School, an exclusive Quaker boarding school in Waterfordmarker, an institution with a much more permissive atmosphere than Grianan. With the help and encouragement of her Irish language teacher, Joseph Falvey, she recorded a four-song demo, with two covers and two of her own songs which would later appear on her first album.

Through an ad she placed in Hot Press in the summer of 1984, she met Columb Farrelly. Together they recruited a few other members and formed a band called Ton Ton Macoute, named for the ruthless Haitian secret police. (A 1991 biography incorrectly claimed this name refers to Haitianmarker zombies.) In the autumn, the band moved to Waterford briefly while O'Connor attended Newtown, but she soon dropped out of school and followed them to Dublinmarker, where their performances received positive reviews. Their sound was inspired by Farrelly's interest in witchcraft, mysticism, and world music, though most observers thought O'Connor's singing and stage presence was the band's driving force.

On 10 February 1985, O'Connor's mother was killed in a car accident. O'Connor was devastated despite her strained relationship with her mother. Soon afterward she left the band, which stayed together despite O'Connor's statements to the contrary in later interviews, and moved to London.

Musical career

First record contract

O'Connor's time as singer for Ton Ton Macoute brought her to the attention of the music industry, and she was eventually signed by Ensign Records. She also acquired an experienced manager, Fachtna O'Ceallaigh, former head of U2's Mother Records. Soon after she was signed, she embarked on her first major project, providing the vocals for the song "Heroine", which she cowrote with U2's guitarist The Edge for the soundtrack to the film Captive. O'Ceallaigh, who had been fired by U2 for complaining about them in an interview, was outspoken with his comments about music and politics, and O'Connor began to adopt the same habits; she made controversial comments about the IRA and directed negative remarks towards U2.

Things were contentious in the studio as well. She was paired with veteran producer Mick Glossop, whom she later publicly derided. They had differing visions regarding her debut album and four months of recordings were scrapped. During this time she became pregnant by her session drummer John Reynolds (who went on to drum with the band Transvision Vamp). Thanks largely to O'Ceallaigh's persuasion, the record company allowed O'Connor, 20 years old and by then seven months pregnant, to produce her own album.

Worldwide success

O'Connor's first two albums (1987's The Lion and the Cobra and 1990's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got) gained considerable attention and mostly positive reviews. She was praised for her voice and her original songs. She was also noted for her appearance: her shaved head, often angry expression, and sometimes shapeless or unusual clothing.

The Lion and the Cobra was not embraced by the pop mainstream on a large-scale basis, but the album did eventually hit gold record status and earned a Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy nomination. The single "Mandinka" was a big college radio hit, and "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" received both college and urban play in a remixed form that featured rapper MC Lyte. In her first US network television appearance, O'Connor sang "Mandinka" on Late Night with David Letterman in 1988. The single "Troy" was also released as a single in the UK and Ireland. A club mix of "Troy" would become a major US dance hit in 2002.

The following year, O'Connor joined The The frontman Matt Johnson as a guest vocalist on the band's album Mind Bomb, which spawned the duet "Kingdom of Rain."

The album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got featured Marco Pirroni and Kevin Mooney, of Adam and the Ants fame, and contained her international breakthrough hit "Nothing Compares 2 U", a song written by Prince and originally recorded and released by a side project of his, The Family. Aided by a memorable and well received video by John Maybury which consisted almost solely of O'Connor's face as she performed the song, it became a massive international hit, reaching #1 in several countries. In Ireland it hit the top spot in July 1990 and remained there for 11 weeks; it is the eighth most successful single of the decade there. It had similar success in the UK, charting at #1 for 4 weeks, and in Germany (#1 for 11 weeks). In Australia, it reached #1 on the Top 100. It also claimed the #1 spot on the Hot 100 chart in the USA. She also received Grammy nominations including Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She eventually won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance, but boycotted the award show.

Public Enemy's Hank Shocklee remixed the album's next single, "The Emperor's New Clothes," for a 12-inch that was coupled with the Celtic funk of "I Am Stretched On Your Grave." Pre-dating but included on I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was also "Jump in the River," which originally appeared on the Married to the Mob soundtrack; the 12-inch version of the single had included a remix featuring performance artist Karen Finley. Also in 1990, O'Connor starred in a small independent Irish movie Hush-a-Bye Baby directed in Derrymarker by Margo Harkin.

In 1990, she joined many other guests for former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters' massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. (In 1996, she would guest on Broken China, a solo album by Richard Wright of Pink Floyd.) In 1991 her take on Elton John's "Sacrifice" was acclaimed as one of the best efforts on the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.

In 1990, she contributed a cover of "You Do Something to Me" to the Cole Porter tribute/AIDS fundraising album Red Hot + Blue. This was followed by the release of Am I Not Your Girl?, an album of standards and torch songs that she had listened to while growing up. The record lost her much of the commercial momentum her career had built up until then. Also in 1992 she contributed backing vocals on the track "Come Talk To Me", and shared vocals on the single "Blood of Eden" from the studio album Us by Peter Gabriel.

After spending nine years dividing her time between London and Los Angeles, O'Connor returned to her home town of Dublin in late 1992 to live near her sister and focus on raising her son Jake, then six years old. She spent the following months studying Bel Canto singing with teacher Frank Merriman at the Parnell School of Music. In an interview with The Guardian published 3 May 1993 she reported that her singing lessons with Merriman were the only therapy she was receiving, describing Merriman as "the most amazing teacher in the universe."

The 1993 soundtrack to film In the Name of the Father featured "You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart," with significant contributions from U2 frontman Bono.

The more conventional Universal Mother (1994) did not succeed in restoring her mass appeal. She toured with Lollapalooza in 1995, but dropped out when she became pregnant. O'Connor was replaced on the bill by Elastica (at some venues) and Superchunk (at others). The Gospel Oak EP followed in 1997, and featured songs based in an acoustic setting. It too, did not recapture previous album successes.

In 1994 she appeared in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, also known as Daltrey Sings Townshend. This was a two-night concert at Carnegie Hallmarker produced by Roger Daltrey of The Who in celebration of his 50th birthday. A CD and a VHS video of the concert were issued in 1994, followed by a DVD in 1998.

She appeared in Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy in 1997, playing the Virgin Mary.

2000 - present

Faith and Courage was released in 2000, including the single "No Man's Woman," and featured contributions from Wyclef Jean of the Fugees and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. On the eve of its release, O'Connor came out as a lesbian, and then retracted the statement.

Her 2002 album, Sean-Nós Nua, marked a departure in that O'Connor interpreted or, in her own words, "sexed up" traditional Irish folk songs, including several in the Irish language. In Sean-Nós Nua, she covered a well-known Canadian folk song, Peggy Gordon, interpreted as a song of lesbian, rather than heterosexual, love. In her documentary, Song of Hearts Desire, she stated that her inspiration for the song was her friend, a lesbian who sang the song to lament the loss of her partner.

In 2003, she contributed a track to the Dolly Parton tribute album Just Because I'm a Woman, a cover of Parton's "Dagger Through the Heart". That same year, she also released a double album, She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty. The album contained one disc of demos and previously-unreleased tracks and one disc of a live concert recording. Directly after the album's release, O'Connor announced her retirement from music.Collaborations, a compilation album of guest appearances, was released in 2005 - featuring tracks recorded with Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack, Jah Wobble, Terry Hall, Moby, Bomb The Bass, The Edge, U2, and The The. Numerous other collaborations from throughout her career are yet to be compiled.

Ultimately, after a brief period of inactivity and a bout with fibromyalgia, her retirement proved to be short-lived - O'Connor stated in an interview with Harp that she only intended to retire from making mainstream pop/rock music, and after dealing with her fibromyalgia, chose to move into other musical styles. The reggae album Throw Down Your Arms appeared in late 2005 and was greeted with positive reviews. It was based on the Rastafarian culture and lifestyle, O'Connor having spent time in Jamaicamarker in 2004. She performed the single "Throw Down Your Arms" on The Late Late Show in November. She also made comments critical of the war in Iraq and the role played in it by Ireland's Shannon Airportmarker.

On 8 November 2006, O'Connor performed seven songs from her upcoming album Theology at The Sugar Club in Dublin. Thirty fans were given the opportunity to win pairs of tickets to attend along with music industry critics. The performance was released in 2008 as Live in The Sugar Club CD/DVD sold exclusively on her website.

O'Connor released two songs from her album Theology to download for free from her official website: "If You Had a Vineyard" and "Jeremiah (Something Beautiful)". The album, a collection of covered and original Rastafari spiritual songs, was released in June 2007. The first single from the album, the Rice/Lloyd Webber classic "I Don't Know How to Love Him", was released on 30 April 2007. To promote the album, O'Connor toured extensively Europe and North America. She also appeared on two tracks of the new Ian Brown album The World Is Yours, including the anti-war single "Illegal Attacks".

She toured Europe during 2008, performing mainly Theology material in an intimate, acoustic setting. She also performed "Troy" live for the first time since 1990, along with "Nothing Compares 2 U" and "Dark I Am Yet Lovely" as part of the Night of the Proms concert series in Antwerps, Belgium.

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was reissued in 2009 with an accompanying bonus disc containing B-side and previously unreleased material.

O'Connor announced she was working with Marco Pirroni on recording a new album, described as "a guitar based electric album (..) with songs about love". She is currently demoing songs with plans to release the material in early 2010.


Saturday Night Live performance

O'Connor's career took a political shift — especially in the United States — on 3 October 1992, when she appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest. She was singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War," which she intended as a protest over the sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, by changing the lyric "racism" to "child abuse." She then presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera while singing the word "evil," after which she tore the photo into pieces, said "Fight the real enemy," and threw the pieces towards the camera.

Saturday Night Live had no foreknowledge of O'Connor's plan. As of 2008, NBC still declines to rebroadcast the sequence, instead showing footage from the dress rehearsal where O'Connor holds a photo of an African child before bowing and leaving the stage. The dress rehearsal version is also used for 60-minute syndicated rebroadcasts (seen on Comedy Central and E! Entertainment Television). However, the original episode is available on volume four of the SNL DVD special Saturday Night Live – 25 Years of Music, with an introduction by show creator/executive producer Lorne Michaels about the incident.

As part of SNL's apology to the audience, during his opening monologue the following week, host Joe Pesci held up the photo, explaining that he had taped it back together, which gained applause. Pesci also said that if it had been his show, "I would have gave her such a smack." On the Christopher Walken/Arrested Development episode that followed the Joe Pesci episode, former cast member Jan Hooks cameoed as O'Connor and tried to apologize for her actions, which also spoofed Irish stereotypes such as beer festivals and leprechauns. On Madonna's next appearance on SNL (on an episode hosted by Harvey Keitel), after singing "Bad Girl," she held up a photo of Joey Buttafuoco and, saying "fight the real enemy," tore it up.

This was not O'Connor's first go-around with Saturday Night Live; earlier she had refused to appear on a show hosted by "misogynistic" comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Rather, she had agreed to appear on a later episode hosted by Kyle MacLachlan.

On 22 September 1997, O'Connor was interviewed in Vita, an Italian weekly newspaper. In the interview, she asked the Pope to forgive her. She claimed that the tearing of the photo was "a ridiculous act, the gesture of a girl rebel." She claimed she did it "because I was in rebellion against the faith, but I was still within the faith." She went on to quote Saint Augustine, by saying, "Anger is the first step towards courage." However, O'Connor remained unrepentant about the incident. In a 2002 interview with a time when more information was being uncovered about the Vatican's knowledge of the abuse of children by priests—when asked if she would change anything about the SNL appearance, she replied, "Hell, no!"

Bob Dylan tribute performance

Two weeks after the Saturday Night Live appearance, she was set to perform "I Believe in You" at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute concert in Madison Square Gardenmarker. She was greeted by a thundering mixture of cheers and jeers. During the booing, Kris Kristofferson told her not to "let the bastards get you down," to which she replied, "I'm not down." The noise eventually became so loud that O'Connor saw no point in starting the scheduled song. She called for the keyboard player to stop and the microphone to be turned up, and then screamed over the audience with an improvised, shouted rendition of "War". This time, she sang the song, stopping just after the part in which the lyrics talk about child abuse, emphasizing the point of her previous action. She then looked straight to the audience for a second and left the stage. Kristofferson then comforted her, as she cried.

Garden State Arts Center performance

On 24 August 1990, O'Connor was scheduled to perform at the then-Garden State Arts Centermarker in Holmdel, New Jerseymarker. The practice of the venue was to play a recording of the American national anthem before the show began. O'Connor, who said she was unaware of this practice until shortly before the show was to begin, refused to go on if the anthem was played. Venue officials acquiesced to her demand and omitted the anthem, and so O'Connor performed, but they later permanently banned her.

O'Connor said that she had a policy of not having the national anthem of any country played before her concerts, explaining that these were often written and composed during wars and amounted to nationalist tirades. She pointed out that she meant "no disrespect," but added that she "will not go on stage after the national anthem of a country which imposes censorship on artists. It's hypocritical and racist."

The incident made tabloid headlines, and O'Connor drew tabloid-derived criticism. Her songs were banned from some radio stations.

After Dark appearance

In January 1995 O'Connor "was so interested in a (television) discussion about abuse and the Catholic church that she rang in to ask if she could appear. They sent a taxi to her home". The Evening Standard wrote that After Dark "made a brief reappearance last Saturday night when, true to its unpredictable form, Sinéad O'Connor walked on to the set 10 minutes before closedown". Host Helena Kennedy described the event:

:On that occasion, former taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, was sharing the sofas with a Dominican monk and a representative of the Catholic church. “While we were on the air, Sinéad O’Connor called in,” says Kennedy. “Then I got a message in my earpiece to say she had just turned up at the studio. Sinéad came on and argued that abuse in families was coded in by the church because it refused to accept the accounts of women and children,” says Kennedy.


In the late 1990s, Bishop Michael Cox of the Independent Catholic group performed the ceremony of priestly ordination on O'Connor. The Roman Catholic Church believes that ordination of women is impossible, and that a person simulating the sacrament of ordination incurs latae sententiae excommunication. The bishop had contacted her to offer ordination following her appearance on the RTÉmarker's Late Late Show, during which she told the presenter, Gay Byrne, that had she not been a singer, she would have wished to have been a Catholic priest. After her service of ordination, she indicated that she wished to be called Mother Bernadette Mary.

In 2003 she announced that she was going to leave the music industry and train to be a catechist.

In 2005 she performed at Madison Square Gardenmarker at the Jammy Awards and announced plans to release a reggae-influenced album, Throw Down Your Arms, in October 2005. ABC Radio News, announcing her new album, reported that she has found solace in the Rastafari faith, and that the religion "saved her life."

In a 2005 interview by the reggae artist Burning Spear in Andy Warhol's magazine, Interview, she reported that her mission is to "rescue God from religion."

Denouncing Shane MacGowan to the police

Shane MacGowan is renowned for his use of recreational drugs including alcohol. Sinéad O'Connor reported him to the police in London for drug possession—in an attempt, she said, to discourage him from using heroin. At first furious over this, Shane later expressed gratitude towards O'Connor and claimed that the incident helped him kick his heroin habit.

Personal life

O'Connor has been married twice. Her first marriage was to John Reynolds, a record producer and musician who co-produced several of her albums, including Universal Mother. They split up on good terms and continue to work together. Her second marriage was to journalist Nicholas Sommerlad in 2002.

O'Connor also previously dated Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis; the band's song "I Could Have Lied" was reportedly written about his sudden break up with O'Connor. However, in recent times she has claimed that they never dated, and that they were merely friends.

In a 2000 interview in Curve, O'Connor outed herself as a lesbian, "I'm a dyke ... although I haven't been very open about that and throughout most of my life I've gone out with blokes because I haven't necessarily been terribly comfortable about being a big lesbian mule. But I actually am a dyke." However, soon after in an interview in The Independent, she stated, "I believe it was overcompensating of me to declare myself a lesbian. It was not a publicity stunt. I was trying to make someone else feel better. And have subsequently caused pain for myself. I am not in a box of any description." In a magazine article and in a programme on RTÉmarker (Ryan Confidential, broadcast on RTÉ on 29 May 2003), she stated that while most of her sexual relationships had been with men, she has had three relationships with women. In a May 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly, she stated, "I'm three-quarters heterosexual, a quarter gay. I lean a bit more towards the hairy blokes".

She has four children: a son, Jake Reynolds, by her first husband; a daughter, Brigidine Róisíne Waters, born early 1996, by The Irish Times columnist John Waters; another son, Shane, born 6 March 2004, whose father is Irish folk musician and record producer Dónal Lunny; and her fourth child, Yeshua Francis Neil, born on 19 December 2006 whose father is her former partner Frank Bonadio. O'Connor formally announced to Paul Martin in the Irish Daily Mirror that the two had broken up as of the weekend of 17 February 2007, citing difficulties between Bonadio and his former wife, singer Mary Coughlan.

On an 4 October 2007 broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show, O'Connor disclosed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder four years earlier, and had attempted suicide on her 33rd birthday.



Year Album Chart Positions Worldwide Sales

UK U.S. AUS DEUmarker CHEmarker AUTmarker FRAmarker SWEmarker CANmarker IRLmarker

1987 The Lion and the Cobra 27 36 - 52 12 - - 37 17 1 2,500,000
1990 I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 7,000,000
1992 Am I Not Your Girl? 6 27 17 24 11 9 26 16 11 - 1,500,000
1994 Universal Mother 19 36 31 38 11 7 21 11 16 - 1,500,000
1997 Gospel Oak EP 28 128 - - - - - - 94 - 250,000
1997 So Far... the Best of Sinéad O'Connor 28 - - 97 - 27 - - - - 2,000,000
2000 Faith and Courage 61 55 18 38 19 21 27 59 18 - 1,000,000
2002 Sean-Nós Nua 52 139 61 75 67 29 69 - - - 225,000
2003 She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty - - - - - - 90 - - - 100,000
2005 Collaborations - - - - - - - - - - 500,000
2005 Throw Down Your Arms - - - - - - 26 - - 19 250,000
2007 Theology 157 168 - 86 - - 81 - - 18 375,000


Year Single Chart Positions Album
UK US Hot 100 US Mod Rock US Dance AUS IRE CAN
1986 "Heroine" (with The Edge) 89 12 Captive OST
1987 "Troy" The Lion and the Cobra
1988 "Mandinka" 17 14 39 6 44
"I Want Your (Hands on Me)" 77 26 20
"Jump in the River" (with Karen Finley) 81 17 29 single only
1990 "Nothing Compares 2 U" 1 1 1 1 1 1 I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
"The Emperor's New Clothes" 31 60 1 20 5 3
"Three Babies' 42 19
"I Am Stretched On Your Grave" 27
1991 "My Special Child" 42 97 6 87 single only
"Silent Night" 60 12
1992 "Visions of You" (with Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart) 35 Rising About Bedlam
"Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home" 18 20 37 11 78 Am I Not Your Girl?
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina" 53
1994 "You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart" 42 24 43 4 In the Name of the Father (soundtrack)
"Thank You for Hearing Me" 13 Universal Mother
"Fire on Babylon" 57 61
1995 "Famine" 51
"Haunted" (with Shane MacGowan) 30 6 single only
1997 "This Is to Mother You" 28 Gospel Oak EP
"This is a Rebel Song" 60 29 So Far... the Best of Sinéad O'Connor
1998 "The Butcher Boy" The Butcher Boy OST
2000 "No Man's Woman" 87 Faith and Courage
"Jealous" 86 58
2002 "Troy" (remix) 48 3 single only
2003 "Tears from the Moon" (with Conjure One) 42 3
"Guide Me God" (with Ghostland & Natacha Atlas) 20
"1000 Mirrors" (with Asian Dub Foundation) 81 Enemy of the Enemy
"Special Cases" (with Massive Attack) 15 25 100th Window
"A Hundred Thousand Angels" 18 She Who Dwells...
2007 "I Don't Know How to Love Him" Theology
"Illegal Attacks" (with Ian Brown) 16 The World Is Yours
2008 "We People (Who Are Darker Than Blue)" (with Republic of Loose) Theology
"The Ballad of Ronnie Drew" (with U2, The Dubliners, Kíla, and A Band of Bowsies) 1 non-album single


Compilations and collaborations

See also her 2005 compilations album Collaborations.


Further reading

  • Guterman, Jimmy. Sinéad : Her Life and Music. Warner Books, 1991. ISBN 0-446-39254-5.
  • Hayes, Dermott. Sinéad O'Connor: So Different. Omnibus, 1991. ISBN 0-7119-2482-1.

External links

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