Sinéad O'Connor was born in the working-class Glenageary part of Dublin on December 8, I966. Sinead, the third of John and Marie O'Connor's four children, grew up cautiously, anxiousty observing what was teft of a marriage that had begun to deteriorate before she had been born. John O'Connor was an engineer (he later took up law) and Marie was a dressmaker before they wed. In 1975,John and Marie finally separated (as Irish Catholics, they could not divorce) and for the next five years Sinead lived with her mother almost all the time. When she was thirteen. Sinead started doing what most thirteen-year-old kids, from happy homes or not,start doing: she rebelled. Sinead has said that her five years in the home of her mother were dark and for the most part joyless, and at thirteen she moved back in with her father Sinead saw little of her mother over the next few years; when Marie O'Connor was killed in a car crash in 1985, she had not seen her daughter in more than a year.
She sang from a very early age, learning the guitar and starting to write songs while still at school. At just 14 she joined the Irish band In Tua Nua, co-writing their debut single Take My Hand, which was a hit in 1984. She went on to join the short-lived Ton Ton Macoute, who significantly auditioned for the independent label Ensign Records. Though the group was to split, Sinéad had made an impact and was signed to Ensign as a solo artist in 1985, moving to London to work on her debut album.
The Lion and the Cobra
, both written and produced by Sinéad, was released in 1987, and was an immediate hit with critics and the public alike. Sinéad undertook a yearlong tour throughout the UK, Europe and the United States. One concert, in London's Dominion Theatre in June 1988, was filmed by John Maybury and released the following year on video as The Value Of Ignorance
. 1989 also saw her acting debut in the film Hush-A-Bye-Baby.
March 1990 saw the release of Sinéad's second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
, including the Prince song Nothing Compares 2 U that was to catapult the singer to new heights of fame. The single, accompanied by a stunningly compelling video again directed by Maybury, topped the charts in 17 countries and earned her three MTV Awards
. Sinéad again took to the road for a major world tour in 1990, with concerts filmed in Brussels and Rotterdam providing material for the live video The Year Of The Horse
. That year also saw her contribute to the Red Hot and Blue AIDS benefit album and play an Amnesty International concert in Chile. Following a spell living in Los Angeles in 1991, she released the single My Special Child in aid of the Kurdish Refugee Appeal and performed a concert for the same cause at The Hague.
Sinéad undertook an ambitious recording project for her next album, recording Am I Not Your Girl
in New York City with a 47-piece orchestra. The album, including the first single, Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home, was a collection of cover versions produced by Sinéad with Phil Ramone. The sessions for the album (released September 1992) were filmed by a documentary crew, and ultimately became a 40-minute TV special entitled Coffee and Cigarettes. The album also featured Sinéad's haunting interpretation of the classic song Don't Cry For Me Argentina, which was the albums second single.
The next two years saw Sinéad undertake a number of side projects, recording the track Be Still for the Peace Together Project, appearing at the Dublin Peace Rally and guesting on Peter Gabrielís WOMAD world tour. In addition, she took time out to enroll at the Parnell School of Music in Dublin for singing and piano lessons. 1993 saw her first venture into film music, recording You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart as the closing song for In The Name Of The Father, followed soon afterwards by the opening music for BBC film Oh Mary This London.
Sinéad O'Connor's final album on Ensign/Chrysalis was the well-received Universal Mother
in September 1994, its 10 new tracks and two covers produced by her along with John Reynolds, Tim Simenon and Phil Coulter.
By the time of the Gospel Oak EP
in 1997, Sinéad had transcended her reputation as a forthright political critic, which in some quarters overshadowed the music. The release of So Far The Best Of
, a collection of her best-known songs to date gave cause to reflect on her career and the strength of the work she had produced. Sinéad was rightly recognized as a singer of immense talent and relevance, at the forefront of the movement of edgy female singer-songwriters. This was reflected in her appearance at the 1998 Lillith Fair. 1998 also saw a return to the big screen, with her portrayal of the Virgin Mary in the film, The Butcher Boy.
The following year, Sinéad joined Thomas Dolby and the Coldcut production team for the worldís first internet single, Them Belly Full (But We Hungry), which was recorded simultaneously at three different locations to benefit the charity War Child.
Signing to Atlantic Records in 2000, Sinéad assembled a world class production team including Brian Eno, John Reynolds, Wyclef Jean, Destiny's Child producer Jerry Te Bass Duplessis and Adrian Sherwood to work on the album Faith and Courage
. Among the many guest musicians were long-time Lee Scratch Perry collaborators Junior Delgado and Little Roy, Jah Wobble, Dave Stewart, Chucho Merchin and Aswad bassist Carlton Ogilvie.
Working with talented artists has been a feature of Sinéad's career. As well as inviting contributions from musicians of all genres for her own albums, she has memorably guested on others' recordings. Highlights over the years include her appearances with Jah Wobble, The Chieftains, Shane McGowan, The The, Bomb The Bass, The Chieftains, Afro-Celt Sound System and Luka Bloom. Last year, she sang on the track Harbour on Moby's album 18 and has provided vocals for several tracks on the forthcoming Massive Attack release.
The inspiration that comes from working with other musicians underpins Sinéad's new album, Sean-Nós Nua
. Each of the 13 tracks has been selected for it's particular resonance in her life while the guest musicians add a distinctive dimension to these well-known songs. Throughout her career, Sinéad's signature has been the blending of traditional and contemporary sources, and nowhere does this work more effectively than in her instantly recognisable interpretations of these classic songs.
She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty
was a live album that soon followed, at which point O'Connor announced her retirement from music.
This proved to be a short-lived retirement, as the reggae album Throw Down Your Arms
appeared in 2005, greeted with very enthousiastic reviews, considering it one of O'Connor's best albums. It was based on the Rastafarian culture and lifestyle, O'Connor having spent time in Jamaica in 2004. She performed the single "Throw Down Your Arms" on The Late Late Show in November, but was not well received, embarrassing host Pat Kenny and placing her bare feet on the chair beside her. She also made negative comments about the war on Iraq and the role the Irish airport Shannon played in it.