Irish singer and activist Sinéad O’Connor, who has died at the age of 56, converted to Islam in 2018.
O’Connor, who found worldwide fame with hit single Nothing Compares 2 U in 1990, changed her name to Shuhada, but continued to perform under her birth name.
The singer’s family has confirmed her death in a statement, saying: “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.”
Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar paid tribute to her, saying her music “was loved around the world and her talent was unmatched and beyond compare”.
In 1991, O’Connor was named artist of the year by Rolling Stone magazine on the back of the song’s success. She was presented with the inaugural award for Classic Irish Album at the RTÉ Choice Music Awards earlier this year.
O’Connor, as a teenager, was placed in Dublin’s An Grianan Training Centre, once one of the notorious Magdalene laundries, originally set up to incarcerate young girls deemed to be promiscuous.
One nun bought her a guitar and set her up with a music teacher – which led to the launch of O’Connor’s musical career. She released her first critically acclaimed album The Lion And The Cobra in 1987, which entered the top 40 in the UK and US.
Her follow up I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which included Nothing Compares 2 U, reached number one around the world including in the US and the UK. She released 10 studio albums between 1987 and 2014.
O’Connor was outspoken in her social and political views. In 1992, one of the most notable events of her career took place when the singer ripped up a portrait of Pope John Paul II on the US TV show Saturday Night Live (SNL), where she was the invited performer.
Following an acapella performance of Bob Marley’s War, she looked at the camera and said “fight the real enemy”, a protest against the Catholic Church. After her action, she was banned for life by broadcaster NBC and protests against her in the US, which saw copies of her records destroyed in New York’s Times Square.
“I’m not sorry I did it. It was brilliant,” she said in an interview with the New York Times in 2021.
O’Connor’s 17-year-old son Shane died last year, days after he was reported missing. Writing on social media following his death, she said he had “decided to end his earthly struggle” and requested “no-one follows his example”. The singer later cancelled all live performances for the rest of 2022 due to her “continuing grief” following the death of her son.