News of the passing of Sinéad O’Connor at 56 is heartbreaking for many reasons. I never met her, but my partner Sandra, who ran publicity for MuchMusic was lucky enough to enjoy a memorable encounter, finding the surprisingly petite Irish singer to be positively “luminous… with a magnetic energy that was simply from another, higher place.”

O’Connor became an international sensation at 24 in 1990 with the Song of the Year, “Nothing Compares 2U.” The close-cropped singer took a haunting ballad written by Prince and made it indelibly her own with the aid of a brilliant video shot by English filmmaker John Maybury.

Two years later, she outraged a mass TV audience when she ripped up a photograph of Pope John Paul II during a musical performance on Saturday Night Live. O’Connor was drawing attention to decades of inaction by the Catholic church regarding sexual abuse involving children. She made her point on what remains TV’s greatest pulpit. It cost her dearly career-wise, and accelerated a steep slide into showbusiness exile.

Her incredible story can be seen in the 2022 documentary Nothing Compares, still available to stream on-demand on Crave. From Belfast-born director Kathryn Ferguson, the film artfully works around a serious limitation imposed by the Prince estate: show or hear almost nothing from “Nothing Compares.” The documentary is nonetheless well worth seeing, especially for a profoundly impactful final act.

For much of her life, the singer/songwriter/visual artist fought through serious struggles with mental illness. She was institutionalized at 15 and diagnosed with bi-polar disorder many years later. Despite these challenges, she remained the ultimate seeker, always striving to live in the light.

O’Connor continued to tell the truth in her songs, and in many interviews around the world – repercussions be damned. Her from-the-gut 2016 song “Take Me to Church” was one of her later artistic triumphs. Listen carefully to the lyrics and take note of how her face from the “Nothing Compares 2U” is super-imposed over her close up in the more recent video.


She leaves behind three children. A fourth child, her son Shane O’Connor, died early in 2022 at the age of 17. May both mother and son rest in peace.

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