Irish singer and activist Sinéad O’Connor has died at the age of 56. O’Connor’s death was confirmed in the early hours of this morning (AEST) by her family in a statement to the BBC and Irish national broadcaster RTE.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” they wrote. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
Sinéad O’Connor: ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
No cause of death has been revealed at the time of writing.
One of the most famous artists of the 1990s, O’Connor rose to fame off the back of her 1987 debut album Lion and the Cobra. Her best-known work was the wildly successful cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compared 2 U’, released in 1990, which made her a household name around the world.
O’Connor’s most famous moment, however, came during an episode of Saturday Night Live, in which she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a performance of Bob Marley’s ‘War’ – a protest against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The singer was boycotted and denounced by religious groups and the general public around the world; she was even handed a life ban by the SNL broadcaster NBC. Her mainstream career never really recovered, but she would go on to release many more albums, including 2007’s Theology and her final record I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss in 2014.
In an interview with People in 2021, O’Connor said she never regretted the SNL incident.
“I had a pretty good feeling,” she explained. “And part to me just as an artist, particularly an Irish artist — there’s a tradition in Irish art, particularly among playwrights, there used to be riots in the streets over the plays. This is a tradition in Irish art of the type of, ‘Let’s see what happens if.’ So there was a part of me that was curious to see what would happen.
“[I was] well aware there would be [backlash]. I understood it, because we joke in Ireland or in Europe that Americans, they don’t think anything happened until it happened to them. So I totally understood. I didn’t blame anyone.”
O’Connor’s passing comes less than two years after the death of her 17-year-old son Shane. O’Connor converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat, although she continued to perform under Sinéad O’Connor.