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Ireland mourns the gifted and lifelong non-conformist Sinead O'Connor

Thursday, July 27th 2023 - 10:20 UTC
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O'Connor was propelled to worldwide fame by the Prince cover “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which won the 1990 Billboard Music Awards for Best Single O'Connor was propelled to worldwide fame by the Prince cover “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which won the 1990 Billboard Music Awards for Best Single

Ireland is mourning its acclaimed composer and singer Sinead O'Connor, who died at the age of 56. In a statement cited by Irish broadcaster RTE, the singer's family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

O'Connor was propelled to worldwide fame by the Prince cover “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which won the 1990 Billboard Music Awards for Best Single in the World. The string-accompanied ballad topped the music charts from Europe to Australia.

She had already received critical acclaim for her first album, “The Lion and the Cobra,” featuring her debut hit “Mandinka.” The singer released 10 studio albums in all.

Various political figures and celebrities have been paying tribute to the singer, with Ireland's President Michael D.Higgins saying: “What Ireland has lost at such a relatively young age is one of our greatest and most gifted composers, songwriters and performers of recent decades, one who had a unique talent and extraordinary connection with her audience, all of whom held such love and warmth for her.”

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said O'Connor's “music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare.”

Irish former UFC champion Conor McGregor said: “The world has lost an artist with the voice of an angel. Ireland has lost an iconic voice and one of our absolute finest, by a long shot. And I have lost a friend. Sinead's music will live on and continue to inspire! Rest In Peace, Sinead you are home with your son I am sure.”

O'Connor had performed a stirring rendition of “Foggy dew” for the entrance of McGregor before one of his fights.

Singer Tori Amos was among the musicians paying tribute and called her “a force of nature.” “Such passion, such intense presence and a beautiful soul, who battled her own personal demons courageously,” Amos said. “Be at peace dear Sinead, you will forever be in our hearts.”

The artist kept her head shaved in what she said was a response to music company bosses pressurizing her to be conventionally glamorous. Outspoken in her social and political views and regularly stirring up controversy, O'Connor was a lifelong non-conformist.

She described herself as a child “kleptomaniac” and was arrested several times before she was eventually sent to a church-run training facility where a sympathetic nun encouraged her to pursue music.

“I suppose I've got to say that music saved me,” she said in 2013. “It was either jail or music. I got lucky.”

O'Connor was a critic of the Catholic Church long before sexual abuse was widely reported and made headlines by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II in October 1992 while appearing on live television.

When Pope Benedict XVI apologized to Ireland in 2010 to atone for decades of abuse, O'Connor condemned the apology saying it did not go far enough. She announced in 2018 that she had converted to Islam.

The singer, who married four times, had a troubled personal life. She was open about mental health issues on social media, saying she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her son, Shane, died last year aged 17 by suicide. O'Connor is survived by three of her children.

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