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Sinead O’Connor: 1966-2023

The music world is mourning the BRIT and Grammy Award-winning Irish singer-songwriter following her death aged 56

By James Hanley on 27 Jul 2023

Sinead O'Connor


image © Bryan Ledgard

The music industry is mourning Sinéad O’Connor following the Irish singer-songwriter’s death at the age of 56.

Police say the BRIT and Grammy Award-winning artist was found “unresponsive” and “pronounced dead at the scene” at her home in London yesterday (26 July). No cause of death has been reported, but officers say it is not being treated as suspicious.

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

O’Connor’s last live concert took place at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, California, in February 2020. A scheduled 2022 tour was cancelled following the death of her son Shane, aged 17, in January last year.

Her former agent Steve Zapp, of International Talent Booking (ITB), tells the Irish Independent: “I was lucky enough to get the chance to work for a while with the incredible Sinead – a legend, huge spirit who was never frightened to speak her mind and one of the most talented and inspiring people that I’ve ever had the honour to meet. I’ll treasure that time forever and send my heartfelt condolences to Sinead’s family and all that were touched by her life.”

O’Connor’s biggest hit was her iconic cover version of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U, which topped charts around the globe in 1990. Her most controversial moment came two years later, when she ripped up a photo of the Pope on US late night TV show Saturday Night Live to protest the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church – an incident that led to the artist being treated, in her own words, “like a pariah”.

“Sinead O’Connor was one of the most important artists to come out of the British Isles for the last 40 years”

“People say, ‘Oh, you fucked up your career’ but they’re talking about the career they had in mind for me,” she told the Guardian in 2021. “I fucked up the house in Antigua that the record company dudes wanted to buy. I fucked up their career, not mine. It meant I had to make my living playing live, and I am born for live performance.”

Glassnote Entertainment Group founder Daniel Glass, a former executive at O’Connor’s longtime record label Chrysalis Records, tells the Guardian: “Live, she would always have hip-hop artists opening for her. That was her thing. No one was doing that. Not the commercial producers, but the really rock, hip-hop, political people in the business that had a voice – she gave them a voice and she had them opening for her.”

O’Connor, who spoke openly about her mental health struggles through the years, released 10 studio albums over the course of her career, from 1987’s The Lion and the Cobra to 2014’s I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.

Jeremy Lascelles, CEO of Blue Raincoat Group, part of the Reservoir Group of companies which includes Chrysalis Records, also paid tribute.

“Sinead O’Connor was one of the most important artists to come out of the British Isles for the last 40 years,” says Lascelles. “The bravery of her music and the stance that she took on many issues makes her stand out as a champion for women’s voices on every level. She was both of her time and ahead of it, and has left us with a legacy of music that means so much to so many.

“She remained hugely creative right to the end, and the world is a sadder place with her passing. The Chrysalis and Reservoir family pays tribute to a true visionary, a true legend.”

 


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