Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Nothing Compares 2 You

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 26th, 2023 at 09:24:33 PM EST

RIP Sinéad O'Connor 1966-2023

Along with U2, Van Morrison, The Cranberries, The Boomtown Rats (Bob Geldof), Riverdance and perhaps Rory Gallagher and The Pogues, Sinéad O'Connor is one of the few Irish musical acts who can be said to have made it into the global musical consciousness.

Sinéad O’Connor: A take-no-prisoners defiance in the face of trauma

Sinéad O’Connor, who has died at the age of 56, was a uniquely expressive and individual voice at a pivotal moment in the history of modern Ireland.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, 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.”

For many, she embodied a raw, take-no-prisoners defiance in the face of trauma and abuse. Others admired and loved her but were alarmed by her apparent mental fragility and vulnerability.

From the earliest stages of her musical career, she announced herself as a new and very different sort of female artist in a music scene defined and controlled by male expectations. By her early 20s, she had become an international superstar, but her fierce honesty about her personal beliefs, along with a refusal to remain silent about her own experience of trauma and mental health issues, meant she was incapable of playing the game which the global mass entertainment industry demands from performers.

It was a turbulent life from the beginning. A family separation, a troubled childhood and a rebellious adolescence, including 18 months of institutional incarceration in a Magdalene institution – “I steal everything. I’m not a nice person. I’m trouble,” she would recall in her memoir – were the prelude to an early creative flowering, when she discovered her voice as a writer and singer.

By her mid-teens she was already performing publicly and her voice was getting noticed. Characteristically, she was also already making comments about U2 (negative) and the Provisional IRA (positive) which made life difficult for her management. Equally characteristically, she was quick to acknowledge when she felt she had got such comments wrong.

Within a couple of years she was ascending international album charts with her first album, The Lion and the Cobra. Her second, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, reached further heights, but its career-defining song was not an original. The cover version of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U, with its memorable video by English film-makers John Maybury, brought to the world the close-up image, head shaven, a tear rolling down her cheek, that would resonate in the public imagination right up to the present day.

The world lay before her to be conquered but she had other ideas. She would not permit the US national anthem to be played at a concert in New Jersey, drawing the wrath of Frank Sinatra. She withdrew from the Grammys. Most famously, in 1992, she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on US television show Saturday Night Live in protest against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Her commercial career never recovered and it is hard to argue her gender did not play a role in that.

“The industry has managed to completely pervert the idea of female liberation ...” she told The Irish Times Women’s Podcast 30 years later. “They’re giving little girls the idea that all they are worth is how they look.”

Record sales faltered, and there were personal difficulties – failed relationships, an overdose, a suicide attempt. But as the 1990s slipped into the 2000s, she still regularly re-emerged to recapture public attention, whether through new musical explorations or duets with artists from Peter Gabriel to Mary J Blige. She became a priest. She converted to Islam. She changed her name. Her fans and those who loved her were often concerned by social media posts that led to genuine fears for her safety. In 2007 she had told US talkshow host Oprah Winfrey she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, although later she said that diagnosis had been incorrect.

Her lyrical, funny, revelatory memoir Rememberings was published to widespread acclaim in 2021. A fine documentary about her life followed a year later. But sadness was never far away: her teenage son, Shane, died last year. And now Sinéad herself is gone from the stage too soon.

I did not know about O'Connor's time in a Magdalena laundry:

The now 46-year-old was sent to the Sisters of Our Lady Charity laundry in Dublin when she was just 14 years of age because she was labelled a "problem child".

She told the Irish Sun: "We were girls in there, not women, just children really. And the girls in there cried every day.

"It was a prison. We didn't see our families, we were locked in, cut off from life, deprived of a normal childhood.

"We were told we were there because we were bad people. Some of the girls had been raped at home and not believed.

"One girl was in because she had a bad hip and her family didn't know what to do with her.

"It was a great grief to us."

Sinead said that her 18-month-long experience in High Park, Drumcondra left her so angry that it was part of the reason she tore up the photo of the Pope on live TV.

The mum-of-four said the Church's "flaccid" apology for the years of imprisonment wasn't enough.

"They said something like, `We're sorry for the hurt'.

"The word hurt doesn't cover it. I am disgusted that the State won't apologise. I'm disgusted at the tone of the Church's flaccid apology. The Church is getting away with it again."

Explains much aboout the picture of the pope. And of course, you can't have a truth teller as a global pop icon.

However, in O'Connor's own view on her career it lead her career back on the right path:

"People say that tearing up the picture somehow derailed my career. And I feel the opposite of that," she said. "In fact, having a number one record derailed my career."

In the pop world, O'Connor felt like she couldn't be herself. She said she spent more time having her picture taken than doing what she really loved -- performing live and making music.

"I found the world of pop stars quite imprisoning. It's a bit like being the Queen of England or the President of Ireland. You can't actually express an opinion about anything," she told Power.

For O'Connor, freedom of speech is at the heart of her artistry.

"I'm an Irish artist, and we have a history of causing riots in the streets with songs and plays," she said. "You know, back in the old days, you couldn't put an Irish play on without there being a riot in the street after, or, you know, mounted police on horses outside the gigs in London. Our job as Irish artists [is] to cause riots in the streets."

by fjallstrom on Fri Jul 28th, 2023 at 08:06:15 AM EST
Plus the photograph of JPII belonged to her mother, who she said had also abused her.

She was much loved in Ireland, and not just for her great voice. More as an icon of a new Ireland, one not afraid of the establishment, church or state. The Irish media never went after her, even after the JPII incident - unlike in the USA.

I remember her being booed at a New York Concert, and I think Johnny Cash (of all people) putting a protective arm around her. She never lost her edge, unlike (say) Bob Dylan who became part of the mainstream.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jul 28th, 2023 at 11:23:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our "news media" are really chicken shitty like that.  JPII deserved far worse.  Aside from enabling pervs, he was a fascist who probably wished Pilsudski's colonels were still in charge of Poland.

As for the New York concert, it was Kris Kristofferson who supported her and later wrote the song "Sister Sinéad".

by rifek on Sun Jul 30th, 2023 at 08:12:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea thanks. I wasn't sure was it Kris or Johnnu Cash. I remember being sad that people at a Dylan Tribute concert would behave like that. What did they think he was? An icon of the conservative establishment? Americans can be funny about religion. They really haven't grown up yet...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 30th, 2023 at 08:18:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Johnny Cash (of all people) putting a protective arm around her

why "of all people"? Cash had a similar profile to Sineàd : bad boy / big heart / controversial champion of radical causes. It could have been Johnny :)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Aug 2nd, 2023 at 10:28:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To those who don't know him or his work, US country singers tend to be regarded as red-necks.

Like all stereotypes, they are often wrong...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 2nd, 2023 at 12:27:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui (Oui) on Wed Aug 2nd, 2023 at 01:19:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Jul 30th, 2023 at 09:03:58 PM EST
Sinéad emerged at the time I migrated out of the English-language pop world. I was always aware of her, and of her brilliance, but not intimately.
Of the other Irish acts you mention :

Van Morrison I knew and loved before I even realised he was Irish... Since about 1980, I have been waiting for him to have a "late period" of brilliant work, in the manner of WB Yeats... But I fear it's too late now.

The Pogues broke through into my world, and I saw them perform in France... uncontrolled greatness.

My personal favourite : The Undertones. Foolishly, they broke up after making The Sin of Pride, a great work of Irish soul, emblematic of an era (but not promoted by their record company!) They taught me more about Irishness than any other artist I can think of.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Aug 2nd, 2023 at 10:47:04 AM EST
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 8th, 2023 at 07:23:05 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]