For decades, Sinead O’Connor entertained millions with her music.
From her magnificent interpretation of Prince’s song Nothing Compares 2 U, to other hits including Troy and The Emperor’s New Clothes, she was uniquely talented.
But, away from the stage and recording studio, O’Connor generated frequent controversy.
From backing the IRA and tearing up a picture of the Pope to banning the US national anthem at a concert, the Irish star knew how to ruffle feathers.
The latter controversy even led to a public feud with music legend Frank Sinatra.
But the singer, whose death aged 56 was announced yesterday evening, was still adored by her millions of fans.
Sinead O’Connor generated huge controversy in 1992 when she tore up a picture of Pope JOhn Paul II during a performance on US show Saturday Night Live
O’Connor declared her support for the IRA in 1989, when her career was in its infancy.
The following year, she retracted her statement, saying she had been ‘too young to understand the tense situation in Northern Ireland properly.’
A critic of the Roman Catholic Church well before allegations of sexual abuse were widely reported, her visual attack on Pope John Paul II came in October 1992.
Appearing on NBC’s Saturday Night Live show, she tore up his picture as she concluded a cover of Bob Marley’s song War.
The tearing moment came after she sang the lyric, ‘We have confidence, in the victory, of good over evil.’
She then told her audience to ‘fight the real enemy’.
O’Connor had reportedly told NBC that she would hold up a picture of a starving child and make a plea to protect the world’s most vulnerable kids.
The performer recalled in her 2021 memoir, Rememberings, the eerie silence she was greeted with after walking off stage: ‘When I walk backstage, literally not a human being is in sight’ she wrote.
‘All doors have closed. Everyone has vanished. Including my own manager, who locks himself in his room for three days and unplugs his phone.’
The network was inundated with complaints and calls for days about the broadcast.
SNL’s show creator Lorne Michaels allowed O’Connor back on stage at the end of the program to wave goodnight to the audience.
He later added that O’Connor’s action was ‘the bravest possible thing she could do.’
Kris Kristofferson comforts Sinead O’Connor after she was booed off stage during the Bob Dylan anniversary concert at New York Madison Square Garden, on October 17, 1992. The performance was O’Connor’s first live event since she ripped a picture of Pope John Paul II
Her feud with Sinatra came when she refused to allow the playing of The Star Spangled Banner at a show in New Jersey in 1992. Appearing on the same stage 24 hours later, Sinatra, then aged 76, said to loud applause: ‘I wish I could have gone to see her so I could kick her ass.’
The singer (pictured performing in Amsterdam in 1988) was placed in corrective school aged 15 after bouts of stealing
The next week, Joe Pesci hosted Saturday Night Live, held up a repaired photo of the Pope and said if he had been on the show with O’Connor he ‘would have gave her such a smack.’
Days later, she appeared at an all-star tribute for Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden and was immediately booed.
She was supposed to sing Dylan’s ‘I Believe in You,’ but switched to an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s War.
Although consoled and encouraged on stage by her friend Kris Kristofferson, she left and broke down, and her performance was kept off the concert CD.
Years later, Kristofferson recorded ‘Sister Sinead,’ for which he wrote, ‘And maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t/But so was Picasso and so were the saints.’
Her feud with Sinatra came when she refused to allow the playing of The Star Spangled Banner at a show in New Jersey in 1990.
Appearing on the same stage 24 hours later, Sinatra, then aged 76, said to loud applause: ‘I wish I could have gone to see her so I could kick her ass.’
O’Conner had issued an ultimatum about the anthem moments before she was due to perform to a 9,000 capacity crowd.
She said: ‘I feel very strongly about censorship, and I don’t want to go on stage after the anthem of a country that’s arresting people for expressing themselves on stage.’
The singer is believed to have been referring to the trial of rock band Judas Priest, who were cleared of persuading two young Americans to commit suicide through subliminal messages in her music.
In 1999, O’Connor caused uproar in Ireland when she became a priestess of the breakaway Latin Tridentine Church – a position that was not recognized by the mainstream Catholic Church.
For many years, she called for a full investigation into the extent of the church’s role in concealing child abuse by clergy.
In 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI apologized to Ireland to atone for decades of abuse, O’Connor condemned the apology for not going far enough and called for Catholics to boycott Mass until there was a full investigation into the Vatican’s role.
‘People assumed I didn’t believe in God. That’s not the case at all,’ she wrote in the Washington Post in 2010.
‘I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.’
O’Connor announced in 2018 that she had converted to Islam and would be adopting the name Shuhada’ Davitt, later Shuhada Sadaqat – although she continued to use Sinéad O’Connor professionally.
O’Connor’s performance of Nothing Compares 2 U in 1990 had propelled her to international superstardom.
In 1990, O’Connor was first propelled to international super-stardom with her version of Nothing Compares 2 U, a song written and composed by Prince
Sinead O’Connor had a longstanding feud with Prince and claims he ‘terrorised’ her after her cover of his song Nothing Compares 2 U
The song had been composed by Prince for his side project The Family in 1985.
But in her 2021 memoir, O’Connor claimed Prince ‘terrorized’ her over the song.
She wrote that Prince, who died in 2016, summoned her to his Hollywood mansion, scolded her for swearing in interviews, and harangued his butler to serve her soup though she repeatedly refused it.
She claimed that Prince suggested airing out their differences in a friendly pillow fight, but then assaulted her with ‘something hard’ slipped into a pillowcase.
As she tried to leave his ‘macabre’ mansion, O’Connor said Prince physically blocked her and dragged her toward his car, prompting her to flee on foot to a neighboring home and desperately ring the doorbell, at which point she says Prince backed off.
The Irish singer claims there were a number of reasons why Prince allegedly became violent during their meeting.
‘Firstly, Prince didn’t like people covering his songs,’ she wrote in the memoir.
‘Secondly, he had all these female protégés and he was annoyed that I wasn’t one of them.
‘Thirdly, my manager Steve Fargnoli had been his manager and they were involved in a legal case.
‘On top of all this he was a woman-beating ****. I’m certainly not the only woman he laid a hand on.’
Publicly, however, Prince praised O’Connor’s cover version, saying: ‘I love it, it’s great! I look for cosmic meaning in everything.
‘I think we just took that song as far as we could, then someone else was supposed to come along and pick it up.’
After Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016, O’Connor told police investigators that he was ‘into devil worship’ and a woman-beater.
‘It’s not just drugs he was into, it was darkness,’ she told investigators from the Carver County Sheriff’s Office two weeks after Prince died, in a recorded interview that was later made public.
O’Connor told the investigators, who were probing Prince’s death in his Minnesota mansion Paisley Park, that the singer had ‘a drug habit for the entire of his life’ and ‘used hard drugs commonly.’
O’Connor announced in 2018 that she had converted to Islam and would be adopting the name Shuhada’ Davitt, later Shuhada Sadaqat – although she continued to use Sinéad O’Connor professionally
In 2014, she said she was joining the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party and called for its leaders to step aside so that a younger generation of activists could take over. She later withdrew her application.
The controversies in O’Connor’s career had come after a difficult childhood with a mother she alleged was abusive and encouraged her to shoplift.
As a teenager she spent time in a church-sponsored institution for girls, where she said she washed priests’ clothes for no wages.
The singer married four times; her union to drug counsellor Barry Herridge, in 2011, lasted just 16 days.
O’Connor had four children: Jake, with her husband John Reynolds; Roisin, with John Waters; Shane, with Donal Lunny; and Yeshua Bonadio, with Frank Bonadio.
Shane took his own life in 2022, leaving the star utterly devastated.
In a Twitter post just ten days ago she gave an insight into her grief since losing Shane, claiming he was ‘the only person who ever loved me unconditionally’.