HomeNewsy BitsThe Legacy of Sinead O’Connor

The Legacy of Sinead O’Connor

I was watching Mtv with a girl I’d just met. It was the winter of 1991 and we were at Lili’s 21, a favorite punk rock hangout in Hamtramck, Michigan at that time. I had given this girl a fake name when I met her, but she turned out to be really cool and I suddenly needed to figure a way to come correct on my name, while also trying to impress her with my charm and wit. 

Sinead O’Connor’s video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” came on, and I made some comment about it being cloying and excessively earnest. I felt like O’Connor and her producers had missed the irony of the hyperbole in Prince’s lyric. My new friend didn’t look away from the tv and said, “She hates injustice.”

That was the first thing I thought of on July 26 when I heard that Sinead O’Connor had passed at the age of 56. “She hates injustice” is a phrase forever linked to Sinead in my mind. She was as authentic a pop culture figure as I’ve seen, and I respected her anti-pop star stance. “I’d no desire for fame,” she’s quoted as saying, “I just had a lot of stuff to get off my chest.” 

When she took a stand on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in 1992 to denounce the Catholic Church’s veiled network of child abuse, critics and fans decried that she had thrown away her career. But she said, in ripping up an image of Pope John Paul II on international television, that she didn’t throw away a career that she valued. “I didn’t say I wanted to be a pop star. It didn’t suit me to be a pop star.” O’Connor later wrote in her 2021 memoir Rememberings, “I feel that having a No. 1 record derailed my career and my tearing the photo put me back on the right track.”

Sinead O’Connor on SNL 1992

Sinead O’Connor was a resolute pioneer who was organically controversial. She exposed abuses of power via the platform her fame provided her, and carved out a space for women’s rage and protest in a music industry determined to ignore it. In addition to her stand against the Church, she was outspoken on racism, HIV/AIDS, and women’s health. She was also a fierce LGBTQ+ ally.

I eventually confessed to my new friend that I’d given her a fake name, that the name I used was a guy in Whit Stillman’s film Metropolitan who gets with a girl she resembled. She laughed, but I think she found me to be simply an amusing diversion, not a very serious person. It was too bad I couldn’t make it work with Audrey Roget, but I’m eternally grateful for Sinead O’Connor’s role in inspiring me to figure out who I am and what I believe in.

You may also enjoy

Author Talk: Clover Hope on the Women Who Made Hip-Hop


Learn more about what we're up to at 360°Sound.