Sinéad O'Connor, 10 August 2013. Source: Pymouss, Wikimedia Commons.

Everything you need to know about Sinéad O’Connor

What is she famous for?

Sinéad O’Connor (full name Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor) is famous for being an Irish-born singer and songwriter who first gained popularity and fame in the late 1980s with her popular debut album, ‘The Lion and the Cobra’. The singer achieved success worldwide in the 1990s with her arrangement of the Prince song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, which is the song she is most recognised and remembered for. The singer has courted controversy in recently years due to her statements and social media interactions. Controversial issues surrounding the artist include her ordination as a priest (even though she has a roman Catholic background), her strong views of religion, statements on women’s rights, war, child abuse and other artists.  The singer had often contributed music to charity causes and film soundtracks. In 2017 she legally changed her name to Magda Davitt and the following year changed it again to Shuhada’ Sadaqat after her conversion to Islam. Despite changing her name she has continued to record and perform with her original stage name.

Sinéad O'Connor early career
Sinéad O’Connor appearing on After Dark on 21 January 1995. Source: Open Media Ltd, Wikimedia Commons.

Early Career

The singer’s career first began in the 1980s after she was overheard singing ‘Evergreen’ by Barbra Streisand by the drummer of the band In Tua Nua. She was invited to record a song called ‘Take My Hand’, although members of the band felt that at the age of 15 she was not old enough to join their band.  She places an ad in ‘Hot Press’ in 1984 and subsequently met Colm Farrelly who helped her recruit other band members to form a band called Ton Ton Macoute. Whilst she was attending Newtown School the band members moved to Waterford briefly, but she later dropped out and moved with them to Dublin where the band received positive feedback for their performances.

Her time with the band gained her attention from the music industry and the singer was signed on to Ensign Records and was given a manager, Fachtna O’Ceallaigh who was the former director of U2’s Mother Records.

Not long after she signed she was given her first major project, vocals for the track ‘Heroine’ which she co-wrote with U2 guitarist The Edge for the film ‘The Captive’. O’Caeallaigh who had been fired by U2 had strong opinions about the music industry and its politics and O’Connor adopted some of the same opinions; defending the Provisional IRA and saying that the music of U2 was ‘bombastic’. When she was older she retracted her commented about the IRA, saying that she was too young to understand politics at the time.

She released her first album, ‘The Lion and the Cobra’ in 1987, it was certified gold and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Her single ‘Mandinka’ became a big hit on college radio in the United States and she made an appearance on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ to perform the song in 1988.

Sinéad O'Connor career breakthrough
Sinéad O’Connor, 11 August 2013. Source: XIIIfromTOKYO, Wikimedia Commons.

Career Breakthrough

Her sophomore album, ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’ was released in 1990 and gained a lot of attention and positive feedback. She was commended for her voice, lyrics and trademarked looks – a shaved head, loose fitting clothes and angry attitude. The album contained her breakthrough hit ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ which is the song she is most often associated with. The album’s second single was remixed by Hank Shocklee from Public Enemy, the single ‘The Emporor’s New Clothes’ was coupled with Celtic Funk song ‘I Am Stretched on Your Grave’. The singer also made her acting debut in the same year, appearing in the small indie Irish film ‘Hush-a-Bye Baby’ which was directed by Margo Harkin.

She was joined by former Pink Floyd band member, Roger Water’s for a performance of The Wall in Berlin in 1990 and the following years her version of Elton John’s ‘Sacrifice’ gained critical acclaim as one of the best songs on the tribute album ‘Two Room: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin’.

She produced a cover of ‘You Do Something to Me’ for the Cole Porter tribute and AIDS fundraising album which was titled ‘Red Hot + Blue’ in 1990 and followed the release of the album with her own album ‘Am I Not Your Girl?’ which contained standards and torch songs that she had enjoyed growing up. The album was poorly received compared to her past work and did not sell well. In the same year she received backlash after announcing that she would not perform if the US national anthem had played prior to her performance during her concerts. Frank Sinatra came out to say that he would ‘kick her in the ass’ and she withdrew her name from consideration in the 1991 Grammy awards ceremony after receiving four nominations. She spent the remainder of the year working on Bel canto singing with the help of vocal teacher Frank Merriman at the Parnell School of Music. In 1992 Sinéad O’Connor contributed backing vocals on the song ‘Come Talk to Me’ and recorded vocals for the song ‘Blood of Eden’ for the album ‘Us’ by Peter Gabriel. She also worked on the soundtrack for the film ‘In The Name of the Father’ with help from U2 frontman Bono.

Her album ‘Universal Mother’ was more successful than her preceding effort but it was not successful in restoring her appeal to mainstream audiences although the music videos for the first and second singles of the album received a Grammy nomination for Best short form music video. The singer toured with the Lollapalooza festival in 1995 but had to drop out after she fell pregnant.

In 1997 she released ‘The Gospel Oak EP’ which featured a number of acoustic songs. She also made a number of films over the years, including the music film ‘A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who’ which featured a Carnegie Hall concert. She also appeared in the 1997 film The Butcher Boy playing The Virgin Mary.

Sinéad O'Connor continuing career
Sinéad O’Connor performing at the Ramsbottom Music Festival on Sunday 15th September 2013. Source: Man Alive!, Wikimedia Commons.

Continuing Career

In 2000 the singer released the album ‘Faith and Courage’ which included the song ‘No Man’s Woman’. The album also included contributions from Wycleaf Jean and Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics.

In 2002 she released the album ‘Sean-Nos Nua’ which was a departure from her previous sound and featured modern takes on traditional Irish folk songs, with several sung in the Irish language. She also covered the Canadian song ‘Peggy Gordon’, with a re-interpretation of the lyrics of the song as a lesbian, instead of heterosexual relationships.

The following year she participated in the Dolly Parton tribute album ‘Just Because I’m a Woman’, contributing the song ‘Dagger Through the Heart’. Later that year she also provided three songs for the Massive Attack album ‘100th Window’. She also released a double album titled ‘She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty’. The album contained demos and unreleased tracks, as well as a live concert recording. She announced that she planned to retire from music during the release of the album. A number of artists made guest appearances on the album including Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack, Jah Wobble, Terry Hall, Bomb the Bass, The Edge, U2 and The The.

Her retirement did not last long however, after taking some time away to deal with the effects of her fibromyalgia the singer returned with the reggae album ‘Throw Down Your Arms’ and in 2007 released ‘Theology’.

In 2011 she had a planned release for new album ‘Home’ which was due for release in 2012, to promote the album she planned to tour extensively but she suffered a breakdown and cancelled the tour. The tour was resumed in 2013 and in 2014 it was revealed that she was recording a new album called ‘The Vishnu Room’, it was later retitled ‘I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss’

She announced plans to release an album called ‘No Mud No Lotus’ in 2019.