Known for her shaved head and outspoken nature, O’Connor began her career singing on the streets of Dublin and soon rose to international fame, becoming a sensation in 1990 with her take on Prince’s ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U".
Sinéad O'Connor, the gifted Irish singer-songwriter who became a superstar in her mid-20s, has died.
She was 56.
When she first emerged in the public's eye, O'Connor was immediately recognisable for her shaved head and elfin-like features; while her angelic voice could also be fierce, fiery, and extremely expressive.
“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,” the singer's family said in a statement reported Wednesday by the BBC and RTE. No cause of death has been disclosed.
From the streets to stardom
O’Connor began her career singing on the streets of Dublin and soon rose to international fame.
Her 1987 debut album “The Lion and the Cobra” was a bestseller, and she became a worldwide sensation in 1990 with her cover of Prince’s ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U” — a seething, shattering performance that topped charts from Europe to Australia.
The song's notoriety was heightened by a promotional video featuring the grey-eyed O’Connor in an intense close-up.
O'Connor was a lifelong non-conformist — she would say that she shaved her head in response to record executives pressuring her to be conventionally glamorous.
However, her political and cultural stances and the public's continued interest in her private life often overshadowed her music.
In 1999, O’Connor caused an uproar in Ireland when she became a priestess of the breakaway Latin Tridentine Church, a position that was not recognised by the mainstream Catholic Church.
She was also a vociferous advocate for victims of child abuse and often spoke out against racism and xenophobia.
After first changing her name to Magda Davitt in 2017 in an anti-patriarchal gesture, she announced the following year that she had converted to Islam and would be adopting the name Shuhada' Davitt, and later, Shuhada' Sadaqat — although she continued to use Sinéad O’Connor professionally.
'Unmatched talent beyond compare'
By Wednesday evening, tributes to her life and much-admired work continued to pour in following the news of her death.
“Her music was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare,” Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in a statement on social media.
Director Mark Cousins said O'Connor represented "our Irish wild side", while comedian Dara Ó Briain added he hoped "she realised how much love there was for her."
O’Connor announced she was retiring from music in 2003 and again in 2021, yet she continued to record new material. Her most recent album, "I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss," was released in 2014, while she also published singles such as "Trouble Of The World" — including an acapella version — in 2020.
Most recently, O'Connor sang the theme song for Season 7 of the TV series “Outlander”, released this February.
The singer married four times and had four children: Jake, Roisin, Shane, and Yeshua. Shane died in January 2022 at the age of 17.