Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor has died at age 56, according to a family statement obtained by the BBC.
Her cause of death was not revealed.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad,” the singer’s family said in a statement. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
The songstress, born in Dublin, was best known for her smash 1990 hit ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,” written by Prince.
Her rendition of the songworldwide and earned her multiple Grammy Award nominations, including a win for Best Alternative Album in 1991.
That year, O’Connor was named Artist of the Year by Rolling Stone.
The singer, no stranger to controversy throughout her career, sparked intense outrage when she ripped a photo of Pope John Paul II and proclaimed: “Fight the real enemy” during a 1992 musical performance on Saturday Night Live.
O’Connor was born on Dec. 8, 1966. She had a difficult childhood, with a mother whom she alleged was abusive and encouraged her to shoplift. As a teenager she spent time in a church-sponsored institution for girls, where she said she washed priests’ clothes for no wages. But a nun gave O’Connor her first guitar, and soon she sang and performed on the streets of Dublin, her influences ranging from Dylan to Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Her performance with a local band caught the eye of a small record label, and, in 1987, O’Connor released “The Lion and the Cobra,” which sold hundreds of thousands of copies and featured the hit “Mandinka,” driven by a hard rock guitar riff and O’Connor’s piercing vocals. O’Connor, 20 years old and pregnant while making “Lion and the Cobra,” co-produced the album.
“I suppose I’ve got to say that music saved me,” she said in an interview with the Independent newspaper in 2013. “I didn’t have any other abilities, and there was no learning support for girls like me, not in Ireland at that time. It was either jail or music. I got lucky.”
O’Connor’s other musical credits included the albums “Universal Mother” and “Faith and Courage,” a cover of Cole Porter’s “You Do Something to Me” from the AIDS fundraising album “Red Hot + Blue” and backing vocals on Peter Gabriel’s “Blood of Eden.” She received eight Grammy nominations overall and in 1991 won for best alternative musical performance.
O’Connor announced she was retiring from music in 2003, but she continued to record new material. Her most recent album was ” I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss,” released in 2014 and she sang the theme song for Season 7 of “Outlander.”
The singer married four times; her union to drug counselor Barry Herridge, in 2011, lasted just 16 days. She was open about her private life, from her sexuality to her mental illness. She said she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and on social media wrote openly about taking her own life. When her teenage son Shane died by suicide in 2022, O’Connor tweeted there was “no point living without him” and was soon hospitalized.
In 2014, she said she was joining the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party and called for its leaders to step aside so that a younger generation of activists could take over. She later withdrew her application.
O’Connor announced in 2018 that she had converted to Islam and would be adopting the name Shuhada’ Davitt, later Shuhada Sadaqat — although she continued to use Sinéad O’Connor professionally.
O’Connor is survived by three of her children. Her 17-year-old son Shane died last year after going missing. BBC News reports that following his death, she wrote that he had “decided to end his earthly struggle” and requested “no-one follows his example.”