Fame, Prince and the loss of her son - Sinead O'Connor in her own words

27 July 2023, 09:16 | Updated: 27 July 2023, 14:34

Tributes have been paid to Sinead O'Connor who has died aged 56
Tributes have been paid to Sinead O'Connor who has died aged 56. Picture: Alamy/social media

By StephenRigley

Tributes have been paid to Irish music icon Sinead O'Connor who has died aged 56.

The Irish singer, who shot to stardom in 1990 following her cover of then-unreleased Prince track Nothing Compares 2 U, passed away after years of mental health battles.

He death comes a year after the mother-of-four's son Shane, 17, took his own life in January 2022 after escaping hospital while on suicide watch. Details surrounding Sinead's death remain unknown at this time.

Sinead O'Connor singing Nothing Compares 2 U
Sinead O'Connor singing Nothing Compares 2 U. Picture: Alamy

On being a young woman entering the music scene in the 90s when the industry was still dominated by men:

I got into the record business at a time when record executives were a little frisky, let's put it that way. Not in a manner that they would cross a line if you said no but they would certainly try their very best.

In some ways, you had to protect yourself straight off. You would be better to have a bag over your head really. But they wanted me to grow my hair really long and wear mini skirts and all that kind of stuff because they reckoned I would look much prettier. So I went straight around to the barber and shaved the rest of my hair off.

On being threatened by Prince

“He invited me to his house in Los Angeles and started to give out to me for swearing in interviews,.

"When I told him to go f**k himself, he got very upset and became quite threatening, physically. I ended up having to escape.

“It was a very frightening experience. He summoned me to his house one night and I foolishly went alone. He was uncomfortable with the fact I wasn’t a protégé of his and that I’d just recorded the song.

“He ordered that I don’t swear in my interviews. I told him where he could go and he went for me. He went upstairs and got a pillow and he had something hard in the pillow. I ran out of his house, hiding behind a tree.”

On being labelled a troublemaker

I don't do anything in order to cause trouble. It just so happens that what I do naturally causes trouble. I'm proud to be a troublemaker.

Cassettes and compact discs by Sinead O’Connor are flattened by a pavement roller in New York City after she tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II
Cassettes and compact discs by Sinead O’Connor are flattened by a pavement roller in New York City after she tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II. Picture: Alamy

On ripping up the Pope's photo on US tv

“Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame.”

Reflecting on the backlash to the incident in the 2022 documentary about her life, Nothing Compares, she said: “I wasn’t thinking to myself ‘I must be strong’. I didn’t know I was strong. An artist’s job is sometimes to create the difficult conversations that need to be had. That’s what art is for.

“They all thought I should be made a mockery of for throwing my career down the drain. I didn’t say I wanted to be a pop star. It didn’t suit me to be a pop star. So I didn’t throw away any career that I wanted. It didn’t change my attitude.”

Read More: Sinéad O'Connor's poignant final photo and last public words revealed, after the Irish pop icon dies aged 56

Read More: Tributes to Irish pop icon Sinead O'connor who died aged 56 - just 18 months after beloved son Shane's death

Read More: Sinead O'Connor's 'beautiful' son Shane, 17, dies after going missing

On inspiring other artists

If I hope for anything as an artist, it’s that I inspire certain people to be who they really are. My audiences seem to be people who have been given a hard time for being who they are.

On her struggles with mental health

“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.”

On whether god exists

I don't like the word god, I think it's off-putting. It has become an off-putting word. I definitely think there is a presence which responds to the human voice. I don't think it cares if you call it Fred or Daisy, you know? But there is something out there. Definitely.

Sinead with her beloved son Shane
Sinead with her beloved son Shane. Picture: social media

On the death of her son

Paying tribute to Shane following his funeral in January 2022, she said: “We just said goodbye to our beautiful angel, Shaney. Very lovely Hindu ceremony. Shane will have loved it.

“I put a few packs of fags in the coffin for him in case there’s none in heaven. He’ll have loved that too.”

Final post on social media

Shane “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.”