Sinéad O’Connor on the I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got album
Years active 1987-2002, 2005-present
Genres Pop, Reggae and Sean nós (Irish folk music)
Labels Ensign (1987-1997)
Chocolate and Vanilla (2005-)
Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor (born December 8, 1966) is an Irish singer and songwriter. In addition to her music, she is known for her unconventional appearance (she often has her head shaved) and controversial opinions.Contents [hide]
O’Connor was born in Dublin and was named after Sinéad de Valera, wife of Irish President Eamon de Valera and mother of the doctor presiding over the delivery, and Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. She was the middle of five children, sister to Joseph, Eimear, John, and Eoin. Joseph O’Connor is now a notable novelist.
Her parents were Jack O’Connor, a structural engineer later turned barrister, and Marie O’Connor. The couple married young and had a troubled relationship, splitting up when O’Connor was eight. The three eldest children went to live with their mother, where O’Connor claims they were subjected to frequent physical abuse. John O’Connor’s efforts to secure custody of his children in a country which routinely gave custody to the mother and prohibited divorce caused him to become chairman of the Divorce Action Group and a prominent public spokesman. At one point, he even debated his own wife on the subject on a radio show.
In 1979, Sinéad O’Connor left her mother and went to live with her father and his new wife. However, her shoplifting and truancy led to her being placed in a reform school at age 15, the Grinan Training Centre run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. In some ways, she thrived there, especially in writing and music, but she also chafed under the imposed conformity. Unruly students there were sometimes sent to sleep in the adjoining nursing home, an experience which made her later comment “I have never – and probably will never – experience such panic and terror and agony over anything”. (Rolling Stone, April 1988)
One of the volunteers at Grinan was sister of Paul Byrne, drummer for the band In Tua Nua, who heard O’Connor singing “Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand. She recorded a song with them called “Take My Hand” but they felt that at 15, she was too young to join the band.
In 1983, her father sent her to Newtown School, an exclusive Quaker boarding school in Waterford, an institution with a much more permissive atmosphere than Grinan. With the help and encouragement of her Irish language teacher, Joseph Falvy, she recorded a four-song demo, with two covers and two of her own songs which would later appear on her first album.
Through an ad she placed in Hot Press in the summer of 1984, she met Columb Farrelly. Together they recruited a few other members and formed a band called Ton Ton Macoute, named for the zombies of Haitian myth. In the autumn, the band moved to Waterford briefly while O’Connor attended Newtown, but she soon dropped out of school and followed them to Dublin, where their performances gained them positive attention. Their sound was inspired by Farrelly’s interest in witchcraft, mysticism, and world music, though most observers thought O’Connor’s singing and stage presence was the band’s driving force.
On February 10, 1985, O’Connor’s mother died in a car accident. O’Connor was devastated despite her strained relationship with her mother. Soon afterward she left the band, which stayed together despite O’Connor’s statements to the contrary in later interviews, and moved to London.
O’Connor’s time as singer for Ton Ton Macoute brought her to the attention of the music industry and she was signed by Ensign Records. She also acquired an experienced manager, Fachtna O’Ceallaigh, former head of U2′s Mother Records. Soon after she was signed she embarked on her first major project, providing the vocals for the song “Heroine”, which she cowrote with U2′s guitarist The Edge for the soundtrack to the film Captive. While she was building bridges she was also burning them. O’Ceallaigh, who had been fired by U2 for complaining about them in an interview, was outspoken with his comments about music and politics, and O’Connor began to adopt the same habits, making controversial comments about the IRA and even directing negative remarks towards U2, who were admirers of her music.
Things were contentious in the studio as well. She was paired with veteran producer Mick Glossop, whom she later derided as “a fucking old hippy”. They had differing visions regarding her debut album and four months of recordings were scrapped. During this time she became pregnant by her session drummer John Reynolds (formerly of the band Transvision Vamp) and the record company pressured her to get an abortion. Thanks largely to the persuasion of O’Ceallaigh, the record company allowed O’Connor, 20 years old and by then seven months pregnant, to produce her own album.
O’Connor’s first two albums (1988′s The Lion & the Cobra and 1990′s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got) gained considerable attention and mostly positive reviews. She was praised for her unique voice and her original songs. She was also noted for her appearance: her shaved head, angry expression, and sometimes shapeless or unusual clothing.
The Lion & The Cobra was not embraced by the pop mainstream, although the singles “Mandinka” and “I Want Your (Hands On Me)” became moderate hits, the latter as a remix to which rapper MC Lyte added verse.
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got contained her biggest hit single, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, a song written by Prince . The track hit #1 in Ireland in July 1990 and remained there for eleven weeks; it is the eighth most successful single of the decade there. It had similar success in the UK, charting at #1 for three weeks, although it was less popular in mainland Europe. In the USA it also claimed the #1 spot on the Hot 100 chart.
Public Enemy’s Hank Shocklee remixed “The Emperor’s New Clothes” that was coupled with the Celtic funk of “I Am Stretched On Your Grave.” Pre-dating but included on I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got was “Jump In The River” (which originally appeared on the Married To The Mob soundtrack); the 12-inch version of the single included a remix featuring performance artist Karen Finley in signature X-rated form.
Also in 1990 she joined many other guests for former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters’ massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. (Later, in 1996 she guested on Broken China, a solo album by Richard Wright of Pink Floyd.)
In 1992, she contributed a cover of “You Do Something To Me” to the Cole Porter tribute/AIDS fundraising album Red Hot + Blue. This was followed by the release of Am I Not Your Girl?, an album of standards and torch songs that she had listened to while growing up. Her interpretations were considered to run from sublime to overwrought to bizarre, and – coupled with her Garden State Arts Center controversy (see below) – the record lost for her much of the commercial momentum her career had built up until then.
The 1993 soundtrack to film In the Name of the Father featured “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart,” with significant contributions from Bono of U2.
1994′s more conventional Universal Mother did not succeed in restoring her mass appeal, though its opener, “Fire On Babylon,” remains a fan favorite. She toured with Lollapalooza in 1995, but dropped out when she became pregnant. O’Connor was replaced on the bill by Elastica.
Faith and Courage from 2000, largely regarded as a return to form, included the single “No Man’s Woman” and featured contributions from Wyclef Jean of the Fugees and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. Many songs on the album centre around the theme of healing. On the eve of its release she “came out” as a lesbian, and then confusingly retracted the statement.
Her 2002 album, Sean-Nós Nua, marked a departure in that O’Connor interpreted or in her own words “sexed up” traditional Irish folk songs, including several in the Irish language. In 2003, she contributed a track to the Dolly Parton tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman, a cover of Parton’s “Dagger Through the Heart”. That same year, she also released a double album, She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty. The album contained one disc of demos and previously unreleased tracks and one disc of a live concert recording. Directly after the album’s release, O’Connor announced her retirement from music.
This proved to be short-lived, as the reggae album Throw Down Your Arms appeared in 2005, greeted with very enthusiastic reviews, critics considering it one of O’Connor’s best albums. It was based on the Rastafarian culture and lifestyle, O’Connor having spent time in Jamaica in 2004. She performed the single “Throw Down Your Arms” on The Late Late Show in November, but was not well received, embarrassing host Pat Kenny and placing her bare feet on the chair beside her. She also made comments critical of the war in Iraq and the role played in it by the Irish airport Shannon.
She is currently working on a collection of her own spiritual songs to be entitled Theology, for release in October 2006. The album will consist of two discs with the same songs, but performed just with acoustic guitar and voice on one, and with full band and production (Ron Tom) on the other.
Garden State Arts Center controversy
On August 24, 1990, O’Connor was scheduled to perform at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. The practice of the venue was to play a recording of the American national anthem before the show began. O’Connor, who said she was unaware of this practice until shortly before the show was to begin, refused to go on if the anthem was played. Venue officials acquiesced to her demand and omitted the anthem, and so O’Connor performed, but they later permanently banned her. O’Connor said that she had a policy of not having the national anthem of any country played before her concerts and meant “no disrespect” but that she “will not go on stage after the national anthem of a country which imposes censorship on artists. It’s hypocritical and racist.” The incident made tabloid headlines and O’Connor came in for heavy criticism and her songs were banned from a number of radio stations. Frank Sinatra, who performed at the Center the next night, said he wished he could “kick her in the ass.”
Saturday Night Live controversy
O’Connor tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II
O’Connor’s career received a significant blow – especially in the United States – on October 3, 1992, when she appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest, on a show hosted by Tim Robbins. She was singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “War” to protest sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church , and added a lyric about “sexual abuse.” She then presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera and, saying “fight the real enemy,” tore it.  . A video of the event can be viewed here. In the resultant media furor, O’Connor was booed off stages and verbally abused by audiences. For example, two weeks later, booing appeared in force when O’Connor tried to perform “I Believe In You” at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute concert in Madison Square Garden. She was unable to start the song, and gave a shouted rendition of “War” again instead before leaving the stage in tears. During the booing, Kris Kristofferson told her not to “let the bastards get you down.” Kristofferson also comforted her after she left the stage.
Saturday Night Live had no foreknowledge of O’Connor’s plan and has resisted invitations to rebroadcast the incident (however, it is available on volume four of Saturday Night Live – 25 Years of Music DVD, one of the program’s compilation video sets). When Comedy Central occasionally rebroadcasts the episode, the incident is replaced with Sinéad holding up a picture of a smiling black child. This is the rehearsal performance as she originally planned to perform . As part of SNL’s apology to the audience, during his opening monologue the following week, host Joe Pesci held up the photo, taped back together. On Madonna’s next appearance on SNL, at the end of a song, she held up a photo of Joey Buttafuoco and, saying “fight the real enemy,” tore it up.
This was not even O’Connor’s first go-around with Saturday Night Live; earlier she had refused to appear on a show hosted by “misogynistic” comedian Andrew Dice Clay. Rather, she had agreed to appear on a later episode hosted by Kyle MacLachlan.
On September 22, 1997, O’Connor was interviewed in Vita, an Italian weekly newspaper. In the interview, she asked the Pope to forgive her. She claimed that the tearing of the photo was “a ridiculous act, the gesture of a girl rebel.” She claimed she did it “because I was in rebellion against the faith, but I was still within the faith.” She went on to quote Saint Augustine, by saying, “Anger is the first step towards courage.” However, O’Connor remains unrepentant about the incident. In a 2002 interview with Salon.com, O’Connor was asked if she would change anything about the October 3, 1992 SNL appearance and she replied “Hell, no”.
Despite popular rumours, neither Sinéad O’Connor, nor Saturday Night Live were ever fined $2.5 million for the stunt.
In the late 1990s, O’Connor was controversially ordained into the schismatic Independent Catholic group known as the Palmarian Catholic Church, by Irish Bishop Michael Cox, in disregard of the prohibition on the ordination of women within Roman Catholicism. As a result she became excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Cox contacted her to offer ordination following her appearance on the RTÉ’s Late Late Show, during which she told the presenter, Gay Byrne, that had she not been a singer, she would have wished to have been a Catholic priest. After her service of ordination, she indicated that she wished to be called Mother Bernadette Mary.
In 2003 she announced that she was going to leave the music industry  and train to be a catechist (teacher of the Catholic religion to school children).
In 2005 she performed at Madison Square Garden at the Jammy Awards and announced plans to release a reggae-influenced album, named Throw Down Your Arms, in October 2005. ABC Radio News, announcing her new album, reported that she has found solace in the Rastafarian faith, and that the religion “saved her life.”
In a 2005 interview by the reggae artist Burning Spear in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, she reported that her mission is to “rescue God from religion.”
O’Connor has been married twice. Her first marriage was to John Reynolds, a record producer, writer and musician who co-produced several albums, including her fourth, Universal Mother, in 1994. Her second marriage was to Nicholas Sommerlad, a journalist said to be related to the Queen of Sweden (whose maiden name is Sommerlath), in 2002 but they separated in 2003. She has also previously dated Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis; the band’s song “I Could Have Lied” was written about O’Conner.
She has three children: a son, Jake Reynolds, by her first husband; a daughter, Róisín Waters, by The Irish Times columnist John Waters; and another son, Shane.
In a magazine article and in a programme on RTÉ (Ryan Confidential, broadcast on RTÉ 1 on May 29, 2003), O’Connor outed herself as bisexual, stating that while most of her sexual relationships had been with men, she has had three relationships with women. In a May 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly, she again outed herself, this time as a lesbian.
Sinead O’Connor is pregnant with her fourth baby. She is due Christmas Eve, 2006. The baby’s father is her partner Frank Bonadio. She now considers herself heterosexual. 
1987 The Lion and the Cobra
1990 I Do Not Want What I Haven’t GoT
1992 Am I Not Your Girl?
1994 Universal Mother
1997 Gospel Oak EP
1997 So Far… the Best of Sinéad O’Connor
2000 Faith and Courage
2002 Sean-Nós Nua
2003 She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty
2005 Throw Down Your Arms
1986 “Heroine” (The Edge featuring Sinéad O’Connor) ,Captive OST
1988 “Mandinka”,Th e Lion & The Cobra
1988 “I Want Your (Hands On Me)” , he Lion & The Cobra
1988 “Jump In the River” (Sinéad O’Connor & Karen Finley)
1990 “Nothing Compares 2 U”, I Do Not Want…
1990 “The Emperor’s New Clothes” I Do Not Want…
1990 “Three Babies”, I Do Not Want…
1990 “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” I Do Not Want…
1991 “My Special Child”
1991 “Silent Night”
1992 “Success Has Made a Failure Of Our Home” ,Am I Not Your Girl?
1992 “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” 53, Am I Not Your Girl?
1994 “You Made Me the Thief Of Your Heart” ,In the Name Of the Father soundtrack
1994 “Thank You For Hearing Me”, Universal Mother
1994 “Fire On Babylon”, Universal Mother
1995 “Famine” / “All Apologies”, Universal Mother
1995 “Haunted” (Shane MacGowan & Sinéad O’Connor)
1997 “This Is a Rebel Song”, Gospel Oak
1997 “This Is To Mother You”, gospel Oak
2000 “No Man’s Woman” ,Faith and Courage
2000 “Jealous”,Fai th and Courage
2002 “Troy (The Phoenix From the Flame)” (remix)
2003 “Tears From the Moon” (Conjure One featuring Sinéad O’Connor)
2003 “Guide Me God” (Ghostland featuring Sinéad O’Connor and Natacha Atlas)
2003 “1000 Mirrors” (Asian Dub Foundation featuring Sinéad O’Connor), Enemy of the Enemy
Guterman, Jimmy. Sinéad : Her Life and Music. Warner Books, 1991. ISBN 0446392545.
Hayes, Dermott. Sinéad O’Connor: So Different. Omnibus, 1991. ISBN 0711924821.