Celebrities and musicians shared memories of Sinéad O’Connor on Wednesday, shortly after news broke that the Irish singer-songwriter had died. She was 56.
Tributes emphasizing the power of O’Connor’s voice, both as a musician and a political activist, quickly flooded social media, with some recalling the time they spent with the performer.
The artist, whose cause of death was not disclosed, is being remembered as much for her criticism of the Catholic Church as she is for her music career, which began on the streets of Dublin before launching to the international stage in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
Family members of the singer, whose 17-year-old son, Shane, died by suicide in January last year, shared a statement about her death Wednesday, which was reported by the BBC and RTE.
“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 statement said.
O’Connor’s powerful and moving cover of Prince’s ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U” topped the charts worldwide in 1990 and received three Grammy nominations, landing her a feature as Rolling Stone’s Artist of the Year the following year. Even in the spotlight, O’Connor identified as a “troublemaker” and a non-conformist, statements that were symbolized most bluntly by her shaved head, a move she said was a dig at record executives who required artists to have a more conventional look.
In response to the news of O’Connor’s death, actor Jamie Lee Curtis posted an Instagram tribute about the time she heard O’Connor sing in an “empty chapel in Ireland.”
“It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my life,” Curtis wrote. “We then went together to see Eminem at a festival. I loved her. Her music. Her life. This is so sad. Watch the NOTHING COMPARES documentary. Brilliant. Heartbreaking. Rest well. Rest in power. Rest in peace.”
On X — formerly known as Twitter — Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joyce Carol Oates recalled O’Connor’s provocative appearance as a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” in 1992, when the singer ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II while on stage, and cited the church as an enemy.
amazing at the time that there was such a backlash against her, even at SNL. one would have thought that a small but vocal contingent would have defended Sinéad O’Connor speaking up for victims of pedophiliac priests. was this a surprise, or did she expect to be so ostracized? https://t.co/u4htmZBBY1
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) July 26, 2023
Rapper Ice T also took to X to commend O’Connor, an artist he said “stood for something… Unlike most people.”
Singer Jason Isbell said he hopes O’Connor has found peace “at last.”
See more reactions from people below:
There aren’t many news stories that will stop almost every Irish person in their tracks. This very sad news is one of them. RIP to one of the finest singers of this – or any – generation. https://t.co/MELx6MGZEW
— Conor Pope (@conor_pope) July 26, 2023
Sinead: and she was the first to talk about abuse in the Catholic church – tearing up the picture of the Pope on TV – but 99% of the music industry hung her out to dry. She was decades before her time, and fearless. Rest in power, queen.
— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) July 26, 2023
Heavy hearted at the loss of Sinead O’Connor. Wanted to reach out to her often but didn’t.I remember her launch. Astounding presence.Voice that cracked stone with force & by increment. As beautiful as any girl around & never traded on that card. I Loved that about her. Iconoclast
— Alison Moyet (@AlisonMoyet) July 26, 2023
Emma Glassman-Hughes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @eglassmanhughes.