Sinead O’Connor grew up in a turbulent household marred by divorce and abuse. By the time she was a teenager, she had been expelled from Catholic school and sent away to reform school for shoplifting.
She found solace in music and was discovered by the drummer of a band called In Tua Nua.
After co-writing a few songs with the band, O’Connor began a solo career. By 1985 she had signed to Ensign Records and moved to London, where she recorded her self-produced debut album, 1987’s The Lion and the Cobra. The record won copious praise in the music press.
With the release of 1990’s acclaimed I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, O’Connor became an alternative rock superstar, thanks both to the album’s hit single Nothing Compares 2 U and her increasingly controversial opinions.
Having recently given birth, suffered miscarriages, and broken up with drummer John Reynolds, Sinead had much to say.
She appeared in the American press saying she supported the IRA and would not perform if The Star Spangled Banner was played before any of her concerts. In addition, she refused to accept the four Grammy nominations she received for I Do Not Want…
She titled her next, more conventional, album Am I Not Your Girl? – Unfortunately, its release was overshadowed by a legendary appearance on Saturday Night Live during which O’Connor ended her set by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II and shouting “Fight the real enemy!”.
O’Connor avoided the spotlight for the next two years and in 1994 she returned with Universal Mother. By the time the Gospel Oak EP came out in 1997, O’Connor had emerged as an elder stateswoman for edgy female singer-songwriters, highlighted by her appearance at the 1998 Lilith Fair.
In 1999, the one-time pope-basher was ordained as a priest in the Latin Tridentine Order of the Catholic Church, a radical sect that operates without papal sanction.
As Mother Bernadette Marie O’Connor she is now able to perform all priestly duties, including baptism, marriage, communion and last rites. A spokesperson at the time said, “She has apologised to John Paul II and accepts the pope as Jesus’ representative on earth”.
In 2000, O’Connor signed to Atlantic Records and announced the impending release of her first album in six years, Faith & Courage.