Sinéad O’Connor, the Irish singer of the smash 1990 hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” who ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live,” has died at the age of 56.
O’Connor’s family announced her death Wednesday. Her cause of death was not mentioned.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” her family said in a statement. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
Irish head of state Leo Varadkar paid tribute to her, saying her music “was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare.”
O’Connor’s son, Shane, died last year by suicide at age 17. On July 17, in what seems to be her last social media post, she wrote: “Been living as undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally.” She added, “I am lost in the bardo without him.” Bardo is a Buddhist term for a transitional or liminal state between death and rebirth.
Her first album, “The Lion and the Cobra” was released in 1987: It sold 2,500,000 copies worldwide and spawned hits including “Mandinka” and “I Want Your (Hands On Me).”
The singer’s second album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. Its lead single was “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which was written by Prince and ranked as the No. 1 single of 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards.
She was the subject of the 2022 Showtime documentary “Nothing Compares,” directed by Kathryn Ferguson. It opens with O’Connor being booed at a Bob Dylan concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992 following her appearance on “SNL,” in which she ripped a photo of the Pope in half on live TV to protest child abuse in the Catholic Church.
The scandal adversely affected her career, but it was not her first brush with criticism. In 1990, Frank Sinatra threatened to “kick her in the ass,” after she said she would not perform if the U.S. national anthem was played before one of her concerts. O’Connor received four Grammy Award nominations that year, but withdrew her name from consideration.
In 2021, she wrote of her own traumatic childhood abuse in her memoir “Rememberings.” Commenting on her struggles with mental health, which included an announcement on Facebook in 2016 that she had just overdosed, she told People, “I was mental. But I don’t regret those ’embarrassing’ videos. I’m quite proud, in a weird way, that I was that open … The nature of a singer is to be emotionally honest. I’ve always been pretty open. And I have no regrets.”
She added, “You can never predict what might trigger the [PTSD]. I describe myself as a rescue dog: I’m fine until you put me in a situation that even slightly smells like any of the trauma I went through, then I flip my lid,” saying she’d going through “a lot of therapy.”
“You learn to live with it, but what helped me live with it was to forgive my mother,” she said at the time.
She most recently sang the theme for Starz series “Outlander.”
O’Connor is survived by her three children. She was married four times: to music producer John Reynolds from 1989 to 1999, British journalist Nick Sommerlad from 2001 to 2002, Australian musician Steve Cooney from 2010 2011 and briefly to Irish therapist in Barry Herridgei in 2011. She had her first son, Jake, with Reynolds; daughter Brigidine with journalist John Waters; son Shane with musician Donal Lunny; and son Yeshua Francis Neil Bonadio with Frank Bonadio.
The singer and guitarist was born in the Dublin suburb of Glenageary. She would have turned 57 on Dec. 8.
Her lawyer Michael Wildes, managing partner of Wildes & Weinberg, told TheWrap he was “devastated” to hear of her passing. “She was a true icon, legend, and a dear friend and our thoughts are with her family during this difficult time. … This is truly a great loss for the world.”