Born on December 8, 1966, in Dublin, Ireland; daughter of John and Marie O'Connor; married John Reynolds, 1988; divorced; children: Jake (with Reynolds), Roisin (with John Waters). Education: Education: Studied voice and piano at Dublin College of Music. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Records, Attn: Patti Conte, 9229 W Sunset Blvd # 900, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Curious, quirky, spontaneous, and street-smart, at times understated, yet always outspoken, Sinead O'Connor is an artist of extremes. From her trademark non-hairstyle--a shaved head--to her unabashed and irreverent publicity stunts, O'Connor's personal style and public antics have attracted as much attention as her captivating music and voice during her 15-year career. Highly talented and infinitely outrageous, O'Connor maintains that she hates liquor, loves marijuana, hates the Pope, and is an ordained Catholic priest by liberal standards.
O'Connor was born on December 8, 1966, in Dublin, Ireland. She was the third of four children of John and Marie O'Connor. O'Connor was raised according to a strict tradition of Irish Catholicism and attended catholic school as a child. Her father was an attorney and her mother was a dressmaker; both loved music and singing. O'Connor became distraught at age nine when her parents divorced. In her disappointment she entered an extremely rebellious phase of adolescence as a cry for attention from her separated parents. Ultimately O'Connor was expelled from her school and took to the streets. At age 14 she was taken into police custody for truancy and shoplifting and was sentenced accordingly to two years of incarceration in a juvenile detention home.
At the detention home, O'Connor spent her mornings in academic classes; afternoons were spent in secretarial training. Foremost in O'Connor's personal recollection of the institution was the uninviting, "Dickensonian," and frightening aura of the facility. She and the other juveniles were inappropriately housed in a building that served also as a hostel for the terminally ill. The sanitary conditions were less than acceptable, and the young inmates were not always segregated appropriately from the adult residents.
O'Connor, who aspired to become a writer, began to play the guitar during her stay at the juvenile facility. She sang as she played, often composing her own tunes. At times, she left the reformatory clandestinely to take part in singing contests in the locale. On occasion, she would win contests and a small sum of spending cash in the process. Over time one of the employees at the juvenile center developed a sincere appreciation for O'Connor's musical bent and asked her to sing at a wedding, an engagement that led to a series of contacts that ultimately brought her to the attention of a prominent Irish band U2.
Upon her release from the juvenile home, O'Connor attended a boarding school in Waterford. During those years, although she was not yet of legal age, she spent her evenings singing in taverns. Eventually--for fear of incurring further trouble with the police--she returned to Dublin where she supported herself collecting tips as a street performer while she studied voice and piano at the Dublin College of Music. Additionally, she waited tables and delivered novelty telegrams in order to survive.
As O'Connor matured into adulthood, she acquired a taste and appreciation for all things serene and simple, in stark contrast to the tempestuous atmosphere of her youth. In her quest for simplicity she went to the extreme of shaving her head. She adopted the shaved-head hairstyle early in her career and soon it became her trademark. Likewise, she rarely appears wearing facial makeup and wears only minimal jewelry. Indeed her staunch rejection of female media images brought O'Connor to the forefront of a new movement of female musicians who eschewed flamboyant and sexist theatrics in the 1990s. Regardless, and although she rarely smiles in public, O'Connor has unusually pleasant facial features: strikingly even, soft, and naturally appealing. Her "... face [was] born out of pure romance ... meant to play on the big screen of our imagination," as noted by Hilton Als in Interview.
O'Connor's music, like her shaved head, extols the extent of her practical propensity toward all things simple and direct. In 1985, when Nigel Grainge of Ensign Records had the opportunity to hear her intriguing musical repertoire as rendered by means of her lovely clear voice, he invited her to his London-based studio where he made a demo tape and signed her to a contract. Within a year she was collaborating with U2's guitarist, The Edge, in producing the soundtrack for the film, The Captive. Yet when Ensign records initiated the recording of her first album, a serious conflict erupted between the producer's expectations and O'Connor's unbridled personal style. O'Connor rejected the entire output of the original taping session, which was staged with purely Celtic orchestration. The heavy instrumentation, especially the excess of violin accompaniment, aroused O'Connor's vehement distaste for the intricacies of the classic sound. A mere 20 years old at the time, O'Connor was highly influenced by the music of folk hero Bob Dylan and was likewise enamored by the legendary chanteuse Barbra Streisand. Whereas O'Connor's music evokes a Celtic mood, it displays also the dirge-like influence of so-called protest music and is heavily interspersed with a mix of jazz, pop, and folk. Thus the original recording was scrapped altogether; at O'Connor's insistence she retained artistic control over the entire production.
The completed album, The Lion and the Cobra,displays a spectrum of moods, from the soothing, "Just Call Me Joe," to the funky, "I Want Your Hands on Me." O'Connor's vocals range from spoken word to screaming hysteria. In some songs she speaks Celtic, while others exude vocal exhortations minus formal lyrics, which according to O'Connor are, "... just a trick to get your voice out there," as she confided to Als. Two single releases taken from the album, "Mandinka" and "Troy," were played extensively on alternative music radio stations.
Soon after the release of O'Connor's debut album, Ensign Records was sold, and her contract was converted to the Chrysalis label. Her second release, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got,was released on the new label in 1990. The recording reached double platinum sales and ten years later remained the best-selling album of her career. Included on the album was "Nothing Compares 2 U," by Prince, which was produced also as a video single. O'Connor went on to record Am I Not Your Girl? in 1992. The album featured standards that she grew up listening to, such as "I Wanna Be Loved By You," "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," and "Success Has Made A Failure of Our Home."
O'Connor contributed to the albums No Prima Donna: The Songs of Van Morrison and The Glory of Gershwin in 1994. Her own album, 1994's Universal Mother,was a return to folk rock. Chrysalis was ultimately absorbed by EMI, which ceased operations in 1997, just ten days after the release of O'Connor's Gospel OakEP.The album, her final release of the decade, was reissued later by Columbia. She tried a new artform when she appeared in the 1998 film The Butcher Boy as the Virgin Mary. That same year, O'Connor joined in the annual Lilith Fair Music Festival where she became a welcome fixture and--after an involved search for a new label--signed a four-record deal with Atlantic Records. Faith and Courage, released in 2000, was her first issue on that label. Popular tracks on the Atlantic release included "Emma's Song," "Daddy I'm Fine," and "No Man's Woman," which was critiqued as highly autobiographical by the press.
As the public found O'Connor's music to be intriguing, likewise her personal life often created a stir. When in 1985 she lost her mother in a car accident, she came forward publicly after the tragedy for the cause of child abuse, indicating that as a child she had been victim to her own mother's abusive outbursts. Later in the 1980s, O'Connor conceived a child with one of her backup musicians, a drummer named John Reynolds. The two were married and divorced by 1990. In 1996, O'Connor gave birth to Roisin, her daughter by newspaper columnist John Waters. The affair with and resulting separation from Waters unfortunately ignited a prolonged custody battle that led to a cry-for-help suicide attempt by O'Connor when she reportedly ingested a large dose of Valium. Following the overdose, she relinquished custody of her daughter but later abducted the child while exercising her right to parental visitation. O'Connor transported the child from Dublin to London. In January of 1999, Waters accused O'Connor of neglecting Roisin but British authorities determined otherwise.
In 1991, O'Connor stirred up controversy when she withdrew from participation in that year's Grammy Awards ceremony and announced her intention to decline any awards given to her. She informed National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Mike Greene of her decision in a two-page letter. In part, her letter, excerpted in Billboard, read, "As artists, I believe that our function is to express the feelings of the human race ... It is my opinion that the various art establishments do not recognize this. They acknowledge mostly the commercial side of art ... If I were to win an award, I would feel it necessary to decline it, in order to voice my rejection of the values which I think are destroying our work and which, I believe, are destroying the human race." By 2000, O'Connor had received a total of four Grammy Award nominations, which she refused, and withdrew her name from the competition.
In 1992 during an appearance on the satirical television program Saturday Night Live (SNL), O'Connor incited a deluge of criticism and caused some damage to her professional image when she brashly expressed her views on Catholicism. During the highly controversial incident, she held up a photograph of Pope John Paul II, denounced the pontiff, and tore up the picture, reinforcing her longstanding reputation as a rebel and a non-conformist. She did it in protest of the Catholic Church's policies toward women and children. She believed that these policies allowed child abuse to occur. Unfortunately, the press did not explain her position clearly enough, so many people saw the incident as a personal attack on the Pope, instead of on what he represented.
In the aftermath of the SNLincident, O'Connor became increasingly preoccupied with personal matters and retreated from public view, reportedly to study opera. During that time she appeared in live theater and toured with Peter Gabriel.
She surfaced abruptly on April 22, 1999, for a public ceremony at the Grand Hotel de la Grotte in Lourdes, France, whereby she was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church. A renegade sectarian, Bishop Michael Cox, performed the ordination rite. In honor of the occasion, O'Connor adopted a religious name, Mother Bernadette Mary--not for professional purposes. After the ordination, she habitually appeared in public wearing a roman collar. She refused to perform marriage ceremonies by reason of her celebrity, although reportedly she offered to hear confessions by telephone for a nominal fee. In 2000 she declared her ordination status as archdeacon, a clerical status that is non-existent in Catholicism. Likewise, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Dublin refuted the authenticity of her ordination, as the Catholic Church does not recognize women in the priesthood. O'Connor's transformation into a Catholic cleric was particularly ironic because of her earlier denouncement of the Pope.
In June of 2000, in an interview with Curvemagazine, O'Connor averred that she was and always had been a lesbian in her sexual orientation--her marriage and children notwithstanding. True to her unpredictable and irascible nature, she confessed to Time, in a separate interview that same month, "I have a huge calling toward celibacy." In another interview, however, O'Connor said her words were misinterpreted and that she was not homosexual. The media's renewed interest in O'Connor's antics guarantees that she will be in the news for years to come.
by Gloria Cooksey
Sinead O'Connor's Career
Signed with Ensign Records (later Chrysalis Records), 1985-89; collaboration with The Edge, 1985; released debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, 1987; with Chrysalis Records (EMI) 1990-97; performed at Lilith Fair, 1998; signed with Atlantic Records, 1998; released Faith and Courage, 2000.
- Selected discography
- The Lion and the Cobra ,Ensign Records, 1987.
- (Contributor)Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films , A&M, 1988.
- I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got , Chrysalis, 1990.
- (Contributor)Red, Hot & Blue , Chrysalis, 1990.
- (Contributor)Two Rooms: Tribute to Elton John & Bernie Taupin , Polygram, 1991.
- Am I Not Your Girl? ,Ensign/Chrysalis, 1992.
- (Contributor)A Very Special Christmas 2 , A&M, 1992.
- (Contributor)No Prima Donna: The Songs of Van Morrison , Exile/Polydor, 1994.
- Universal Mother ,Chrysalis, 1994.
- Gospel Oak (EP),Chrysalis/EMI, 1997; reissued, Atlantic Records, 1998.
- So Far... The Best of Sinead O'Connor , Chrysalis, 1997.
- (Contributor) The Irish in America: The Long Journey Home , Unisphere/BMG, 1998.
- Faith & Courage ,Atlantic, 2000.
September 9, 2003: O'Connor's album, She Who Dwells, was released. Source: Yahoo! Shopping, shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921993519, September 9, 2003.
- Contemporary Musicians, volume 3, Gale Research, 1990.
- Advocate, July 18, 2000.
- Billboard, February 16, 1991; July 11, 1998.
- Interview, August 1, 2000.
- People, May 17, 1999, p. 85.
- PR Newswire, June 8, 2000.
- Time, June 12, 2000.
- "Links and Bios," Irish Music Forever, http://www.azirishmusic.com/Forever32.htm#SINEAD_O_CONNOR (October 23, 2000),
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