Sinéad Marie Bernadette O’Connor was born in Dublin (Ireland) on 8 December 1966. Her parents divorced early on, and her mother was frequently abusive. O’Connor was sent to reform school after being caught shoplifting.

Her music career began when she was discovered by the drummer of the popular Irish band In Tua Nua and co-wrote their hit song ‘Take My Hand’. Before finishing school, O’Connor ran away to Dublin, where she sang and played guitar on the street and in pubs and worked for a singing telegram service.

While performing with a Dublin band called Ton Ton Macoute, O’Connor caught the attention of the two owner-managers of the small London record label Ensign Records. Ensign released her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, in late 1987. Even without obvious hit singles the album sold half a million copies. When she released her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got she became an international superstar, helped by the lead single ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, famously written by Prince. The album shot to the top of the US Billboard charts and nabbed O’Connor four Grammy Award nominations including Best Album, Best Song, Best Female Vocalist, and Best Alternative Album.

In the midst of all this success, O’Connor was becoming famous for her controversial public outbursts. She made headlines in the USA in 1990 when she refused to appear on stage in New Jersey if ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was played before the concert. In 1992 the singer famously tore a photo of Pope John Paul II during a performance on the TV show Saturday Night Live, denouncing the Catholic Church as “the real enemy.” It was her way to bring attention toward allegations of child abuse within the institution.

Her next two albums, Am I Not Your Girl? (1992) and Universal Mother (1994) were less successful as a result. Aside from the release of her 1997 single “Gospel Oak,” O’Connor’s recording career faltered in the late 1990s, eclipsed by the turmoil in the singer’s private life.

O’Connor had three sons: Jake, born in 1987 to the singer and her first husband John Reynolds; Shane, son of Sinéad and Irish musician Dónal Lunny in 2004 and Yeshua, born to O’Connor and Frank Bonadio in 2006. She also had a daughter, Roisin, born in March 1996. In 1995, an extended custody battle began between O’Connor and her ex John Waters, an Irish journalist, over their infant daughter, Roisin. Following her birth, the two fought a bitter custody battle which finished in 1999. Plagued by Waters’ bitter accusations that she was an unfit mother, O’Connor attempted suicide in March 1999.

A month later she was ordained as the first-ever priestess of the Latin Tridentine Church, a dissident Catholic group led by a self-styled Roman Catholic bishop from Ireland named Michael Cox. In April 2000, Mother Bernadette Marie—O’Connor’s clerical name—was elevated to Archdeacon for her work with Dublin’s homeless.

In 2000, Sinéad released Faith and Courage, including the hit single ‘No Man’s Woman’. 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. This was followed in 2003 by the double album She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty. This compilation 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 that she was retiring from music. However, a year later she stated that she only intended to retire from mainstream pop/rock music, before releasing the reggae album Throw Down Your Arms.

In 2007 she released the album Theology, a collection of covered and original Rastafari spiritual songs. Five years later, she released the album How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?. She planned an extensive tour in support of the album but suffered a serious breakdown between December 2011 and March 2012, resulting in the tour and all her other musical activities for the rest of 2012 being cancelled.

In February 2014, it was revealed that O’Connor had been recording a new album of original material, titled The Vishnu Room, consisting of romantic love songs. In the end, the new album was retitled I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss when it was released later in the year.

In 2017, O’Connor changed her legal name to Magda Davitt, saying she wished to be free of “patriarchal slave names” and “parental curses”. In October 2018, O’Connor converted to Islam, calling it “the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian’s journey”. The ceremony was conducted in Ireland by Sunni Islamic theologian Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri. She also changed her name to Shuhada’ Davitt and posted photos of herself on social media wearing a hijab. She later changed her surname from Davitt to Sadaqat.

O’Connor’s son Shane died by suicide at the age of 17 on 7 January 2022. O’Connor canceled her tour and an announced new album called No Veteran Dies Alone was postponed indefinitely.

On 26 July 2023, O’Connor was found unresponsive at her flat in Herne Hill, South London, and confirmed dead at the age of 56. The following day, the Metropolitan Police reported that O’Connor’s death was not being treated as suspicious but that a post-mortem would be conducted. On 9 January 2024, citing the autopsy report finally published after five months, the London Inner Southwark Coroner’s Court stated that O’Connor died of natural causes.

Following her death, Kate Bush posted a message on her website, calling Sinéad a “magical presence”. During her lifetime, Sinéad in turn has repeatedly stated her admiration for Kate.

Sinéad O’Connor about Kate Bush

My favourite track is obviously ‘Wuthering Heights’. I’ve never met her but I’ve got to admire her because Peter Gabriel tried to shag her and she wasn’t having any. She’s the only woman on Earth who ever resisted him. Including me. I’ve never thought of a duet, but now that you mention it…

Q, NOvember 2000

Kate Bush blew my fucking mind. Had the i tunes on shuffle. On came Lily. I never heard it before. I nearly shat my fucking self. Not only because it was talking about exactly the kind of shit I had on my mind, but because it’s just so fucking staggering.

Kate Bush about Sinéad O’Connor

It’s like a light has gone out, hasn’t it? A beacon on a high mountain. Sinead didn’t just move us with her incredibly emotive voice, she stood up with it.
I salute her. We were lucky to have such a magical presence move among us.

KateBush.Com, 27 JulY 2023