Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


O'CONNOR, Sinead

(b Sinead Marie Bernadette O'Connor, 8 October 1966; Dublin) Irish singer and songwriter. Nearly began her musical career with Irish group In Tua Nua around '83; they recorded her 'Take My Hand'. Her demo tape that year included her songs 'Drink Before The War' and 'Just Like U Said It Would Be', the traditionl 'Black Is The Colour' and Dylan's 'Simple Twist Of Fate'. In mid-'84 she fell in with Columb Farrelly who had responded to her advert in the Irish music paper Hot Press for a band to back her, leading to the founding of Ton Ton Macoute, to whom history has not been kind and to whom she proved unkinder still in print. She arrived in London April '85 where she began working with Karl Wallinger of the Waterboys (then working on their This Is The Sea album); she sang on Wallinger's 'Ship Of Fools' '87 on his next group World Party's debut album Goodbye Jumbo. Collaborated with The Edge of the Irish rock group U2 on the soundtrack of Captive, a film starring Oliver Reed; with typical jaundiced candour she panned the film and badmouthed U2 for withholding payment, although she had co-written 'Heroine' with U2's guitarist. She complained in the press that their list of reasons for non- payment alleged that collaborating with them would advance her career; they finally paid up.

Her debut album The Lion And The Cobra emerged on Ensign/Chrysalis early '88 on the heels of singles based around the A-sides of 'Troy' and 'Mandinka', the fashion then being to release varying combinations or mixes of similar tracks with varying packaging. 'I Want Your (Hands On Me)' '88 teamed her with the rapper M C Lyte. The album was successful but fame was sealed by the massive international success of single 'Nothing Compares 2 U' (a cover of a song by then-superstar Prince, and a bigger hit than he ever had). Having shaved her head and become a single mother, her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got '90 enhanced her image as a firebrand with its songs about betrayal and faith, confession and redemption, but just in case she stayed in the public eye by refusing to allow the US national anthem to be played before a show in New Jersey, and refusing to appear on Saturday Night Live when it was hosted by raunchy comedian Andrew Dice Clay; when she eventually did appear on the show '92 she ripped up a photo of the Pope; she swore during recording sessions for a Christmas carol for the BBC '94; she was booed off the stage during a Bob Dylan tribute in NYC (and burst into tears).

She was good tabloid copy, but still had an amazing voice; she contributed 'You Make Me Feel So Free' to No Prima Donna: The Songs Of Van Morrison on Exile/Polydor '94, an album of Morrison covers produced by Phil Coulter and Morrison himself. After the lacklustre Am I Not Your Girl? '92, Universal Mother '94 vindicated her; at times uplifting, at times harrowing, it included a cover of Nirvana's 'All Apologies' and a speech by Germaine Greer leading into an up-tempo 'Fire On Babylon'; also ballad 'Red Football' and vulnerable 'Thankyou For Hearing Me'. her articulation of issues such as child abuse, the state of Ireland and the abuse of womankind was not entirely garbled by the tabloids. She performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Gala in Oslo. She released The Gospel Oak EP '97, four new songs on Chrysalis.

In fact her persona was a refusal to be a pop star; she has always tried to be herself, for anyone paying attention. She had been abused herself as a child, and her accusations of abuse in the Catholic church have been roundly proven to be accurate. She became a Muslim, and shaves her head again; she spent the Covid pandemic on top of a hill in Ireland, content at last, and published a memoir Rememberings in 2021.