Irish singer and musician Sinead O’Connor, whose professional career spanned over three decades, died on Wednesday. She was 56.
Her family confirmed the singer’s passing in a statement and asked for privacy “at this very difficult time”. Media outlets have reached out to the family members and representatives of O’Connor but the circumstances of her death remain unclear.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Sinead O’Connor began singing in her early teens and later joined a band called Ton Ton Macoute. Wanting to pursue a music career, she eventually dropped out of school to perform in Dublin, where she later landed a music deal with Ensign Records.
Her first album, The Lion and the Cobra, was released in 1987 and was a huge hit, achieving gold status and a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal. It also gave rise to the popular singles “Troy”, “Mandinka”, and “I Want Your (Hands on Me)”.
However, it was her 1990 album “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” that shot her into stardom. Critically acclaimed, it gave rise to the number-one single “Nothing Compares 2 U” and was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including Best Music Video, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year, and Best Alternative Music Performance.
Around that time, she had become a mother, having given birth to a son with her first husband John Reynolds. She would go on to have three more children, a daughter named Roisin, a son named Shane, and a son named Yeshua.
Despite her growing fame, she soon found herself embroiled in controversy after ripping a picture of Pope John Paul II on the talk show “Saturday Night Live”. Prior to that, she had also boycotted the show in protest over plans to have Andrew Dice Clay host as she believed his humor was homophobic and misogynistic.
While the incident ultimately harmed her career, she continued to record music, including renditions of “Fire on Babylon” and “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”. By the end of the 2000s, she had released eight studio albums including Am I Not Your Girl?, Universal Mother, Seans-Nos Nua, Faith and Courage, Theology, and Throw Down Your Arm.
In 2012, she sent out a plea for help on Twitter, asking for psychiatrist recommendations in Dublin or Wicklow, saying that she was “really un-well and in danger”.
Then in 2015, police were asked to find her after she wrote that she had overdosed in a hotel. The following year, authorities were asked to find her again after she was reported missing after going on a bike ride in the Chicago suburbs. She was found safe in both instances.
Her mental health continued to decline in 2017 when she posted a tearful video of herself on Facebook discussing her mental illness. She also revealed in the same video that she had been abandoned by her family in the wake of her mental health crisis.
In the following years, she changed her name twice, once to Magda Davitt, and then again to Shuhada Davitt, after announcing that she had converted to Islam.
Last year, her 17-year-old Shane died after being reported missing a few days prior. She later revealed in a tweet that he had “decided to end his earthly struggle”. A week later, she was admitted to the hospital after posting a series of tweets saying that she planned on taking her own life. She also expressed guilt for her son’s passing.
She later apologized for the alarming posts and reassured her fans that she was receiving help.
O’Connor is survived by her three children.