Sinéad O’Connor, the Irish singer of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” has died, The Irish Times reports. She was 56.
Her cause of death has yet to be revealed.
Her family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
O’Connor, who was outspoken about her decades-long struggle with mental illness, wrote on her Facebook page earlier this month that she had moved back to London after 23 years and was finishing an album to be released next year. She also shared plans to tour in Australia and New Zealand in 2024, and in Europe, the United States and other territories in 2025.
O’Connor had a difficult childhood after the separation of her parents when she was eight. The singer claimed from an early age that her mother, who she lived with after the separation, physically abused her, which led to O’Connor’s vocal advocacy for abused children. At 15, O’Connor spent eighteen months at a Magdalene Asylum due to her truancy and shoplifting. Even at an early age, however, O’Connor showed musical talent and, after moving schools, recorded a four-song demo. She eventually formed the band Ton Ton Macoute, dropped out of school, and moved to Dublin.
O’Connor’s career progressed after she began working with ex-U2 record head Fachtna O’Ceallaigh and she found early success with the 1987 release of her debut album “The Lion and the Cobra,” which achieved gold status and earned her a Grammy nomination for best female vocal rock performance.
Her international breakthrough came with the release of her second album, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” which included O’Connor’s new arrangement of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song originally written by Prince and released under his side project, the Family. O’Connor’s rendition reached No. 1 in several countries, and remained atop the charts in Ireland for 11 weeks. The song earned her a Grammy nom for record of the year, as well as another best female vocal rock performance nod. The album won her a Grammy for best alternative music performance.
She also appeared as Our Lady in Neil Jordan’s 1997 film “The Butcher Boy.” O’Connor went on to release eight more albums, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Music Video, Long Form for her live concert VHS “Year of the Horse” in 1990. Her 1996 song “Famine” also received a Grammy nod for Best Music Video, Short Form. In 2012, the song “Lay Your Head Down,” which she performed for the soundtrack to the film “Albert Nobbs,” received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song.
Throughout her career, O’Connor has gained notoriety for her outspoken nature and several controversies that have surrounded her. In 1993, O’Connor ripped a picture of the Pope into pieces while singing an a capella version of Bob Marley’s “War” on “Saturday Night Live” as a protest against sexual abuse within the church; NBC received over 4,400 complaint calls as a result.
In 2013, O’Connor wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus regarding Cyrus’ sexually explicit imagery and warning her of the treatment of women in the music industry, urging Cyrus not to allow herself to be “pimped” by music executives. The letter received mixed responses from the public, and musician Amanda Palmer wrote an open letter in response stating that O’Connor was “off target” with her critique.
O’Connor revealed in a 2007 interview that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003 and had attempted suicide in 1999 on her 33rd birthday. Seven years later, however, she stated that she had gotten three further opinions stating that she was not bipolar.
In 2015, O’Connor posted on her Facebook page that she had taken an overdose as a result of troubles between herself and Donal Lunny, her ex-husband and the father of her youngest child Shane. Irish police later said they had located O’Connor and she was “safe and sound” and receiving medical attention.
In August 2017, she posted an emotional video to her Facebook page, stating that she had three mental illnesses and felt alone after losing custody of her 13-year-old son Shane. She continued that she had wanted to kill herself for several years and that only her psychiatrists and doctor were keeping her alive. She pleaded for someone in her family to take care of her, and added that she was “one of millions” who are stigmatized for their mental illness.
O’Connor is survived by her three children. Her son, Shane, died by suicide last year at age 17.
O’Connor had switched to a new Twitter account at the beginning of July, using her full name. Her final Twitter post on the new account, on July 17, alluded to her son’s suicide, as she linked to a “Great Tibetan Compassion Mantra” and wrote, “For all mothers of Suicided children.”
For all mothers of Suicided children.
Great Tibetan Compassion Mantra https://t.co/N7LT8NLa26
— Sinead Marie-Bernarde Aoibheann O’Connor (@786OmShahid) July 17, 2023
If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.