Sinéad O’Connor, (born December 8, 1966, Dublin, Ireland—died July 26, 2023, London, England), Irish singer-songwriter, who was dubbed the first superstar of the 1990s by Rolling Stone magazine. During her career she attracted publicity not only for her voice, which was alternately searing and soothing, but also for her controversial actions and statements.
The daughter of a barrister and a dressmaker, O’Connor was born in Dublin. Her parents divorced when she was eight years old, and O’Connor and her siblings were sent to live with their abusive mother, who beat the children on a regular basis. Eventually, O’Connor left to live with her father and stepmother, but the child, who habitually shoplifted, proved to be too troublesome for the couple, and they sent her to reform school. Although O’Connor hated the reform school, it was there that she made her first contacts with the music world. A teacher introduced her to the drummer of a local band, In Tua Nua, and for a brief period O’Connor worked with the band and even cowrote one of their hit singles. After a year and a half at the reform school, O’Connor was transferred to a boarding school in Waterford, but it proved unbearable; she eventually ran back to Dublin, where she attempted to start her own music career.
In Dublin O’Connor eventually joined the pub-rock band Ton Ton Macoute. In 1985, while singing with the group, O’Connor attracted the attention of the London-based record label Ensign Records, which asked O’Connor for a demo tape. Soon afterward O’Connor signed a contract with the label and began work on her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, which was released in 1987 to critical praise. She followed the album with the largely autobiographical I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990). The album was propelled to the top of the U.S. pop charts on the strength of the number one single “Nothing Compares 2 U”—a transcendent cover of a 1985 Prince song.
In the following year O’Connor attracted attention not only for her singing but also for a series of controversial statements, actions, and appearances, including refusing to appear on NBC’s Saturday Night Live because of objections to the week’s guest host, boycotting the 1991 Grammy Awards ceremony and declining to sing there, and refusing to allow the U.S. national anthem to be played before one of her performances. She also attracted criticism for her public support of the Irish Republican Army and for tearing up a picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live in 1992. Nevertheless, O’Connor won the Grammy for best alternative music performance in 1991 for I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and continued to be highly regarded for her musical abilities.
In 1992 O’Connor released an album of torch songs, Am I Not Your Girl?, which received only minor publicity, and she released a fourth album, Universal Mother, in 1994. Soon afterward she took a hiatus from public life, spending time with her children and attending therapy in order to work through problems that lingered from her harsh childhood. O’Connor’s struggles with mental health would continue throughout her life. She was ordained a priest in a controversial religious group led by Bishop Michael Cox, the leader of a religious sect that had broken off from the Roman Catholic Church. In 2000 O’Connor released her fifth album, Faith and Courage, which included the hit song “No Man’s Woman.” The album was praised by several music reviewers as one of the best albums of the year. Subsequent albums include Sean-Nós Nua (2002), Throw Down Your Arms (2005), Theology (2007), How About I Be Me (and You Be You)? (2012), and I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss (2014).
In 2018 O’Connor announced that she had converted to Islam and changed her name to Shuhadāʾ Sadaqat, although she stated that she would continue to perform as Sinéad O’Connor. Her memoir Rememberings (2021) received broad critical praise, and she was the subject of the documentary Nothing Compares (2022).