Sinéad O’Connor has died, RTÊ reports. O’Connor’s family confirmed the news in a statement to the Irish news outlet, writing: “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.” O’Connor was 56 years old.
The incomparable singer and songwriter, who became internationally famous with 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and its hit single, her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” had been hospitalized last year after her 17-year-old son Shane died.
In the recent past, O’Connor’s public life has been a tumultuous one. In 2017, she posted a message to her Facebook page detailing how she was living alone in a New Jersey Travelodge. “I’m all by myself, there’s absolutely nobody in my life,” she said. Throughout her career, O’Connor recorded 10 studio albums. Her last album was 2014’s I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.
O’Connor was born in Dublin, Ireland. In the late 1980s, she was discovered by record executives while performing in the band Ton Ton Macoute. Her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, was released in 1987. She had a brief film career, starring as Emily Brontë in a 1992 adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
It was around this time when she established herself as a provocateur. She voiced her support of the Irish Republican Army, reportedly refused to perform at a U.S. concert if it was preceded by the National Anthem, boycotted the Grammy Awards in 1991 due to the show’s commercialism, and famously tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live” before asking viewers to “fight the real enemy.”
Her family life and emotional health was, at times, fraught. She reportedly attempted suicide in 1999 following a public falling out with Irish journalist John Waters—the father of her daughter. O’Connor revealed she was living with bipolar disorder in 2007. In November 2015, her Facebook page featured posts detailing family turmoil and messages implying that she might harm herself. Months later, it was reported to Chicago police that O’Connor had threatened to jump off a bridge. (O’Connor would later call those reports “bullshit.”)
O’Connor continued to speak openly about her mental health struggles and slowly returned to the public eye. In 2018, she released “Milestones” under the moniker Magda Davitt, marking her first new song in four years. She also announced her first string of tour dates in just as long. In 2021, O’Connor released her memoir Rememberings, which chronicled her difficult childhood, mental health challenges, and her remarkable contributions to popular music.
In early 2022, O’Connor experienced the tragic loss of her 17-year-old son Shane, who died after going missing days prior. Following the news of his death, it was reported that Sinéad had been hospitalized after writing a series of concerning social media posts.
O’Connor’s influence on other musicians is well-documented. Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin told Pitchfork that O’Connor’s song “Three Babies” made a “huge impression.” John Lydon once said that he sometimes listens to her music for “weeks on end.” Fiona Apple once sent O’Connor an emotional video message: “I want you to know that you are my hero.”