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Updated Jul 26, 2023, 3:31pm EDT
Europe

Sinead O’Connor has died at 56

Sinead O'Connor
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The News

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor — who became a global sensation after releasing a cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” — has died.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” her family told national broadcaster RTE in a statement. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

No cause of death was immediately given.

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Her 17-year-old son Shane had died more than a year ago.

While O’Connor’s career produced 10 studio albums, her international reputation was centered around her outspoken views on spirituality, mental health, and women’s issues. She released her memoir Rememberings in 2021, detailing the highs and lows of her life.

We’ve curated her best interviews and articles detailing some of O’Connor’s most iconic moments as a musician and an activist.

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Insights

  • O’Connor had no regrets about the 1992 Saturday Night Live incident in which she ripped up a photo of then Pope John Paul II. The move, meant to protest sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, effectively stymied her career for decades to come. “I’m not sorry I did it. It was brilliant,” she told The New York Times in a 2021 interview, saying she had always seen herself as a “protest-singing punk” rather than a pop star.
  • Known for her outspoken views of an exploitative music industry, O’Connor famously started feuds with pop stars like Miley Cyrus, condemning what she saw as over-sexualization of female entertainers in order to maximize profits. “I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos,” she wrote in a 2013 open letter to Cyrus. “It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.” — The Guardian
  • Mental health struggles dominated much of O’Connor’s life, and she spoke publicly about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder and how her health only deteriorated with fame. She famously recorded herself on Instagram having a mental health breakdown in 2015. O’Connor told Entertainment Weekly that the music industry needs to reform to better take care of artists, saying that management neglects mental health and addiction until it’s too late. “That’s why Amy Winehouse is dead,” she said in the interview. “She kept being pushed out on tour when she should have been in the hospital.”
  • O’Connor converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat. She tweeted that her conversion was “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey” after years of grappling with her Christian identity while protesting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. “I’ve been a Muslim all my life and didn’t even realize it,” she said on the Islamic talk show The Deen Show in 2019, adding that she valued Islam’s rejection of materialism and love of one singular deity.
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