On Wednesday, July 26, the world lost another music legend. Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor—renamed Shuhada' in 2018, and Shuhada' Sadaqat in 2019—died at the age of 56. Known for her fiery political convictions and emotional voice, she left an indelible mark on the world. Her album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and her single “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which was originally written and composed by Prince, was the number-one world single in 1990. However, she was more than a talented singer.
O'Connor was born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor in Dublin, Ireland, in 1966. Her home life was not an easy one, especially the relationship she had with her mother. “I grew up in a severely abusive situation, my mother being the perpetrator,” she said in 2014. “So much of child abuse is about being voiceless and it's a wonderfully healing thing to just make sounds.” Despite the difficulties she faced at home, O'Connor found release through music and began performing in Dublin as a teenager.
This eventually culminated in her first album The Lion and the Cobra, which she recorded while pregnant with her first child. It was released in 1987 when O'Connor was just 20 years old. The cover featured the artist with a shaved head—a feature that she was known for throughout her life and was seen as a statement against expectations for female beauty. Her rise to fame continued with the release of her second album in 1990, titled I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.
In addition to her powerful singing voice, O'Connor made headlines throughout her career for fearlessly taking political stances. One of the most notable occurred in 1992 while performing on Saturday Night Live. After finishing her song, O'Connor pulled out a photo of Pope John Paul II and ripped it on live television to protest the coverup of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church. “It was grand, to be honest,” she later said. “I mean, I knew how people would react. I knew there would be trouble. I was quite prepared to accept that. To me, it was more important that I recognized what I will call the Holy Spirit.”
Unfortunately, O'Connor's later years were plagued by numerous struggles, including mental illness. Her 17-year-old son Shane died by suicide in 2022, leading the artist to be hospitalized. In a video posted just 10 days before her death, she said, “You know the way your kid unfortunately passing away, it isn't good for one's body, or soul, to be fair.” She continued to show her fans a view of her apartment and a new Martin Johnny Cash guitar that she intended to play music on.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead,” a statement regarding O'Connor's death said. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.” She is survived by her children, Jake, Yeshua, and Roisin, as well as her siblings, Joe, John, and Eimear.
Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor has died at age 56.
A musical legend, she was known for her emotional voice and 1990 single “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
People online are posting their memories of the music legend.
RIP Sinéad O'Connor, I loved working with you making photos, doing gigs in Ireland together and chats, all my love to your family. pic.twitter.com/49ryuIhGTQ
— Bryan Adams (@bryanadams) July 26, 2023
— Imelda May (@ImeldaOfficial) July 27, 2023
Dolly Parton's letter to Sinead O'Connor after Sinead covered “Dagger Through the Heart” for a tribute album pic.twitter.com/uY5EgXWp07
— Ray Padgett (@rayfp) July 26, 2023
Sinead O’Connor played Gay Pride in 1988, alongside Erasure, just a month after Section 28 had been passed.
Pride back then was much more of a protest, lesbians and gays were treated as 2nd class citizens.
Performing at Pride was a sign of allyship, when there were few to be had. pic.twitter.com/vJOF8q7LX9
— Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson) July 26, 2023
Ten days before her death, she shared a video with her fans:
— David Bowie Glamour (@DavidBowieGlam) July 26, 2023