The often-controversial Irish singer was one of the biggest global stars of the 1990s.
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has passed away at the age of 56.
O’Connor leaves behind three children, 11 albums, legions of heartbroken fans, and a lengthy list of awards and scandals.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead,” her family said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that they “are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
It is unclear how O’Connor died. However, a social media post by the singer on Tuesday suggests that she may have taken her own life. Referring to the death of her 17-year-old son Shane by suicide last year, she said that she had “been living as [an] undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul.”
O’Connor was introduced to music when a nun in a Dublin correctional school gave her a guitar in the early 1980s. O’Connor had been sent to the Catholic-run institution following a spate of petty thefts and truancies, and took to singing with local musician Colm Farrelly after her release.
Her talents were quickly noticed and she was signed by Ensign Records, releasing her debut album, ‘The Lion and the Cobra’ , in 1987. The album earned her a Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy nomination, but O’Connor became an international superstar with her cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ in 1990.
Collaborations with rock luminaries of the time – including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, U2’s Bono, and Genesis’ Peter Gabriel – soon followed, as did some of the scandals and controversies that would come to define her persona for the following three decades.
O’Connor boycotted the 1991 Grammy Awards over the commercialism of the ceremony, refused to play any concert that would be opened with the American national anthem, and, most infamously, tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II during an appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 1992. The latter stunt earned her the scorn of many of her fellow celebrities, but O’Connor continued speaking out against the church and promoting feminist causes, often singling out other entertainers.
“The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted,” she wrote to pop star Miley Cyrus in 2013. “It’s so not cool Miley … it’s dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality.”
O’Connor converted to Islam in 2018, taking the name Shuhada’ Sadaqat. Following her conversion, she drew public condemnation for calling non-Muslims “disgusting” and declaring that she “never [wanted to] spend time with white people again,” despite being white herself.
Despite repeatedly courting controversy, O’Connor is primarily remembered for her musical talent and major contribution to 1990s pop culture. She was presented with the inaugural award for Classic Irish Album by Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE earlier this year, and her passing has been mourned by fans, celebrities, and statesmen alike.
“Really sorry to hear of the passing of Sinead O’Connor. Her music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted shortly after her family’s announcement.