Sinéad O’Connor: Tributes flow for Irish singer dead at 56

Source: BBC

Tributes have poured in for “radical and incredible” Sinéad O’Connor after the Irish singer’s death at 56.

She had a voice that “cracked stone”, said English musician Alison Moyet, while British band Massive Attack spoke of the “fire in her eyes”.

English musician Jah Wobble told the BBC the singer and activist had “the essence of a Celtic female warrior”.

Her family announced the death “with great sadness” on Wednesday. The cause of death was not made public.

The Grammy-winning singer shot to international stardom in 1990 with the hit ballad Nothing Compares 2 U, and released 10 studio albums between 1987 and 2014.

As a teenager in Dublin, she was placed in one of the notorious former Magdalene laundries, originally set up to incarcerate young girls deemed to be promiscuous.

In 1992 she faced controversy after ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II on US TV show Saturday Night Live in protest against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

She suffered personal tragedy in January last year when her 17-year-old son Shane was found dead.

In one of her final tweets, she called him “the love of my life, the lamp of my soul”.

Moyet paid tribute to O’Connor’s “astounding presence” and voice that “cracked stone with force by increment”.

“As beautiful as any girl around and never traded on that card. I loved that about her. Iconoclast,” she said on social media.

“Devastated,” Massive Attack said. “Honestly, to bear witness to her voice, intimacy in the studio. On the road every single person stopped – dropped their tools during soundtrack. The fire in her eyes made you understand that her activism was a soulful reflex and not a political gesture.”Former Public Image Ltd bassist Jah Wobble, who collaborated with O’Connor, said she was a “very special person”.

He told the BBC World Service’s Newshour that her voice was “very powerful, very controlled… there was a sweetness and fragility to it” – but it was “no secret… that there was a degree of sadness”, he added.

“There are no words,” REM lead singer Michael Stipe said in his tribute.

US singer-songwriter and pianist Tori Amos remembered “such passion, such intense presence and a beautiful soul, who battled her own personal demons courageously”.

The Pogues singer Shane MacGowan and his wife Victoria Mary Clarke said: “We don’t really have words for this but we want to thank you Sinéad for your love and your friendship and your compassion and your humour and your incredible music.”

Singer Yusuf Islam – formerly known as Cat Stevens – called O’Connor a “tender soul”. Like him, O’Connor converted to Islam as an adult, a decision she announced in 2018.

Actor Russell Crowe recalled meeting O’Connor by chance last year when he was working in Ireland. One of Crowe’s friends recognised and ran after the singer when she walked past their table at a pub in Dalkey.

“She came with us back to the table and sat in the cold and ordered a hot tea,” Crowe recalled.

“In a conversation without fences we roamed through the recent Dublin heatwave, local politics, American politics, the ongoing fight for indigenous recognition in many places, but particularly in Australia, her warm memory of New Zealand, faith, music, movies and her brother the writer.

“I had the opportunity to tell her she was a hero of mine. [After she left] we sat there the four of us and variously expressed the same thing. What an amazing woman. Peace be with your courageous heart Sinéad.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, music journalist Dave Fanning, who did the first ever interview with Sinead O’Connor and has met her more than 200 times, described her as a “generous person,” but acknowledged she was a “polarising” figure.

“When she tore up the picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live and people said she’d ruin her career, she did ruin her career, because that was the plan.

“She never wanted to be famous, to be a pop star, she felt she was a protest singer.”

He added: “I’ll remember her as a generous person, a really gentle person, I know she was polarising, I think ahead of her time, she was unwilling to be quiet… but she was prescient and she opened us all to a world which wasn’t necessarily as cosy as we thought.”A 2022 documentary about O’Connor, called Nothing Compares, was set to be aired on television for the first time by Sky on 29 July.

Kathryn Ferguson, the Belfast filmmaker behind the project, said she was “devastated” by the news of O’Connor’s death.

“My father introduced me to Sinéad’s music in the late ’80s,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.

“Her album, the Lion and the Cobra, was played on repeat as we drove around Belfast… And it became this visceral soundtrack to my early childhood. And then, in the early ’90s, my friends and I felt like we really discovered her for a second time, and could really see how she looked, heard what she had to say.

“And she became this huge icon of ours and someone we were so proud of, and that she was from Ireland – Ireland. So she had a huge impact on me as a young Irish teenager.”

Ferguson added: “She is one of the most radical, incredible musicians that we’ve had. And we were very, very lucky to have had her.”O’Connor’s former manager Fachtna Ó Ceallaigh told BBC Radio 4’s Today her “music and her voice were really her channel for expressing emotions, her trauma, her pain and joy and pleasure”.

He added: “People associate very heavy subject matters with her, but she was as light-hearted as any of us and as capable as enjoying herself as any of us.”

Political figures also paid tribute to O’Connor, including Irish President Michael D Higgins, who said: “One couldn’t but always be struck by the depth of her fearless commitment to the important issues which she brought to public attention.”

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