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Irish music legend Sinéad O’Connor dies at age 56

The “Nothing Compares 2 U” sparked controversy throughout her career and famously spoke out against the Catholic Church during a 1992 appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
/ Source: TODAY

“Nothing Compares 2 U” singer Sinéad O’Connor has died. She was 56. 

“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,” the O’Connor family told The BBC and Irish broadcaster RTE.

London’s Metropolitan Police told NBC News they responded to a report July 26 of an unresponsive woman as a residential address. She was pronounced dead on the scene, police said, and the death is not being treated as suspicious.

O’Connor garnered international acclaim in 1990 for “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song originally written and performed by the late musician Prince, and Billboard named it the No. 1 song in the world that year. Throughout her career, she released 10 studio albums, including “Am I Not Your Girl?” in 1992 and “Throw Down Your Arms” in 2005. She received eight Grammy nominations and a win in 1991 for Best Alternative Music Album for “I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.”

She became well-known for rousing controversy and speaking out against child abuse and organized religion and for human and women's rights. In 1992, she famously appeared as a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” and tore a photo of Pope John Paul II into pieces during the recording. In 2021 she told TODAY’s Carson Daly that the gesture was meant to be a statement against child abuse in the Catholic Church.

The moment proved to be career-defining, with O’Connor falling out from the public fore and with many suggesting it ruined her career. Speaking to Carson, the singer said that it was more of a blessing.

“‘Sinéad O’Connor’ was never meant to be a pop star,” she explained at the time. “I was really a protest singer, you know? ... It was a blessing because I had to make my living doing the thing I loved doing, which is making music live.” 

O'Connor was a mother to four children. In 2022, she confirmed that her 17-year-old son died by suicide after he'd gone missing.

O'Connor was ordained as a priest in 1999 for the Roman Catholic Church breakaway, Latin Tridentine Church. In 2018, she converted to Islam and changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat.

The Irish legend spoke openly about her struggle with mental illness in the past. In 2007 she shared she’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 2017, she spoke about her anguish and suicidal thoughts in a 12-minute video shared on Facebook in which she broke down at various intervals. “People who suffer from mental illness are the most vulnerable people on Earth. You’ve got to take care of us. We’re not like everybody,” she said at the time.

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.