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O’Connor, Sinead (8th December 1966-July 2023)

She was a singer-songwriter and actress born Sinead Marie Bernadette O’Connor in Glenageary, Ireland  as the third of five children in a family where her father was a structural engineer but later became a barrister.

Her parents separated when she was eight years old and she and two of her older siblings went to live with their mother where she claims to have regularly suffered physical abuse.  Her father continued to attempt to gain custody but it was fruitless as divorce and the custody of children to the male parent were prohibited.  This went on to influence her writing of the song “Fire on Babylon”.  However, her father did manage to attain a divorce and remarry and Sinead went to live with them in 1979.

When she was fifteen she was sent to the Grianan Traning Centre run by nuns which was a Magdalene Asylum as a result of truancy and shoplifiing and it was here that she began to concentrate on music and songwriting.  These asylums have since received much publicity about their history and the women who were sent there including the 2002 movie The Magdalene Sisters.

A volunteer who worked at the Asylum heard her singing and made her acquainted with her brother who performed with the band In Tua Nua.  The band thought that with her still only being fifteen years old she wasn’t ready to join the band but she did record “Take my Hand” with them.

When she was 17 she left the Magdalene Asylum and was sent to Waterford by her father where she entered the less harsh Quaker run Newton School as a boarding student.  She received encouragement from her Irish language teacher and it was through him that she was given the chance to record a demo which contained two of her own songs and two covers.

In 1984 she advertised in the magazine Hot Press which led to her meeting Colm Farrelly and the two of them going on to put together the band Ton Ton Macoute.  This led to her leaving Newtown School and going to Dublin with them to perform.  The following year, however, her mother died in a car accident which had a huge effect on her and she left the band and went to London.

In 1986 she was signed up by Ensign Records and before long she found herself co-writing the song “Heroine” for the soundtrack of the film Captive with U2’s The Edge.  That same year, while recording her first album, she got involved with her drummer John Reynolds and even though she was seven months pregnant with their son Jake she was still able to produce it as well.

In 1987 she released her debut The Lion and the Cobra which saw her gaining a Grammy Award nomination for best Female Rock Vocal Performance.  “Mandinka” which was a single from the album gained popularity and became a college radio hit in the US, as did “I Want Your (Hands On Me), which was remixed featuring MC Lyte.  “Troy” was released in Ireland and the UK and a later dance hit in the US.  Two years later in 1989 she was appearing as a guest vocalist with The The on their album Mind Bomb.

When the next decade came around her trademark angry expressions and shaved head were getting her noticed and she released her I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got in 1990 which found NME naming it their “second best album of the year”.  It also produced the huge international hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” written by Prince, which was released with the widely acclaimed video and reached the No. 1 spot in several countries around the world including 11 weeks in Ireland and Germany.  The single also earned her several Grammy nominations with her winning one for Best Alternative Music Performance.  The next single “The Emperor’s New Clothes” came out in a remix 12” with “I m Stretched On Your Grace” and the song “Jump In the River” was originally used for the soundtrack to Married to the Mob.

1990 was a busy year for her when she starred in the film Hush-a-Bye Baby and was a guest artist with Roger Waters for his performance of The Wall in Berlin The following year she recorded Elton John’s “Sacrifice” for the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Benie Taupin and “You Do Something To Me” to the Cole Porter tribute Red Hot + Blue.  She also released her next album Am I Not Your Girl? and caused controversy when she stated that should wouldn’t perform her concerts in America if the national anthem was played beforehand.  She also withdrew her name from the Grammy Awards that year, for which she has received 4 nominations.

 In 1992 she sang with Peter Gabriel on his “Blood of Eden” and “Come Talk To Me” from his album Us. In October of that year she also caused major controversy in the US when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II after having sung and changed the lyrics to her version of “War” by Bob Marley as a protest of the sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.  She later returned to Dublin after living away in Los Angeles and London for many years so she could concentrate on her son and be near her sister.  While there she spent several months at the Parnell School of Music where she studied Bel Canto singing.

During the next couple of years her song “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” on the soundtrack of 1993’s In the Name of the Father and she released Universal Mother in 1994.  Also in 1994 she performed in a two-night concert in Carnegie Hall entitled A Celebration; The Music of Pee Townshend and The Who which was issued on a CD and VHS.  The following year she toured with Lollapalooza but decided to leave when she became pregnant for the second time.

When it came to 1997 she released her acoustic based Gospel Oak EP but she still had trouble recapturing her previous success.  She also played the role of the Virgin Mary in the movie The Butcher Boy.  In 1998 she performed and produced Red Hot + Rhapsody.

When the new millennium came in she released Faith and Courage in 2000 with the resultant single being “No Man’s Woman”.  In 2002 her Sean-Nos Nua was her own interpretation of traditional Irish folk songs and it was followed by the documentary Song of Heart’s Desire about the making of the album.

The following year, in 2003, she performed “Dagger Through the Heart” on the Dolly Parton tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman and later that year she sang on three tracks for 100th Window by Massive Attack.  She went on to release the double compilation She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under he Shadow of the Almighty and announce that she had made the decision to retire from music.  The following year she spent some time in Jamaica.

2005 saw the release of the compilation album of her guest appearances entitled Collaborations and after getting over a bout of fibromyalgia she came out of retirement to explore different styles of music.  This led to her to release the reggae based Throw Down Your Arms that same year.

Theology was released in 2007 where the songs “Jeremiah (Something Beautiful)” and “If You Had a Vineyard” were free to download from her website and “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” was released as single.  She then embarked on a tour of Europe and North America and released her Live at the Sugar Club in 2008 which was the CD/DVD set of a concert of songs from Theology, again exclusive from her website.   Sometime during that period she also appeared on “Illegal Attacks” and another song on Ian Brown’s The World Is Yours.

Into the start of the 2010s and she was recording with Mary J. Blige in a duet of her “This Is To Mother You” where the proceeds of the sales went to the GEMS charitable organisation.  In 2012 she released her How About I Be Me (And you Be You)? with the first single from there being “The Wolf Is Getting Married”. She also performed “Lay Your Head Down” for the movie Albert Nobbs which was nominate for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes.  Although planning a tour to accompany her album she stated on her website that she was “very unwell” and “suffered a serious breakdown”, she had to cancel her dates and also her other work in music for the rest of the year.  However, she did go back on the road with her The Crazy Baldhead Tour in 2013 and released the single “4th and Vine” from her 2012 album.

2020 came around and she released “Trouble of the World” which was a cover of a song by Mahalia Jackson.  The following year she published her book Rememberings which was listed positively by BBC Culture.  Also in 2021 she announced she was retiring from music.

Her 17 year old son, Shane, committed suicide in January 2022.  Of course, this caused the indefinite postponement and any accompanying tour of her final album No Veteran Dies Alone.  In 2023 she gave a new version of “The Skye Boat Song” and a month later she received the inaugural Choice Music Prize Classic Irish Album which was awarded by RTE for her 1990 I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

Sinead was married 4 times and had 4 children and was an ordained priest of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church from 1999, asking the Pope to excommunicate her in 2018.  She changed her name to Magda Davitt in 2017 and the following year she converted to Islam and used the name Shuhada.  Her surname was changed from Davitt a brief time later and she became known as Shuhada Sadaqat.

Her body was confirmed unresponsive at her home in Herne Hill, South London and her death was announced in July 2023 when she was 56 years old.