There is no denying the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor is not your everyday pop singer and has always remained a truly mysterious personality.
From being outrageously outspoken, self-probing and the ultimate single mum, she may not have broken down musical barriers but she used this deliberately obtuse thinking to tear down the threat of being stereotyped as just another protest singer in the ilk of civil-rights loving Joan Baez or Ani Difranco. Both those legends were committed to changing people’s perceptions about feminism and social injustice.
O’Connor even shaved her head when she began singing commercially because she wanted to be known for what she could do or accomplish and not because of how she looked and not marketed for her beauty.
She was different and openly controversial, even in the way that she announced that her romance with songwriting had come to an end.
The singer converted to Islam in 2018 with her choice of name, Shuhada Sadaqat, was typical to form as it meant ‘martyr’ in Arabic. It was also so unlike the former Cat Stevens who chose the name Yusuf Islam after becoming enamored by the story of Joseph, which was its Arabic equivalent.
Ok, she did some bizarre things for the public to see like when ripping up a photo that her abusive mum had of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live or taking to social media to detail her personal life and even attract a boyfriend.
But was this for real? Or was she just having fun, at our expense?
Having lived with the likes of Woodie Guthrie, the Pete Seger and the Kurt Cobain, we have come across a lot of characters who are different to your average Joe. They stood out. They had a voice through music poetry.
But I liked O’Connor when I first heard her sing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, a song that was originally written by the late Prince but never released. It was a global No 1 hit reaching the top spot in 17 countries and becoming one of the most iconic songs of 1990. It also earned her a Grammy for Best Alternative Performance; but not surprisingly, she refused to attend the awards to protest against the music industry’s materialism.
She had a lot of friends, but perhaps more enemies. Frank Sinatra once said that he would like to ‘kick her [expletive]’ and she was famously booed off stage during a Bob Dylan tribute concert.
Her singing had a lot of sweetness to it but it was clear that there was a lot of angst wrapped up below the surface. She was by no means a prolific songwriter and had a tendency to cover songs of protest like Bob Marley’s ‘War’ and ‘Fight the Real Enemy.’
Yes, she was unique, but will we miss her? I’m not so sure.