Vocally Challenging – How One O’Connor Has Influenced The Music Industry
An insightful article from Rolling Stone magazine on the colorful career of Sinead O'Connor:
“The third of four children of an engineer father and a dressmaker mother, O'Connor spent a difficult childhood in conservative Dublin; she later claimed abuse by her mother (killed in a 1985 car wreck), to whom she was greatly, if ambivalently, devoted. Torn by her parents' separation when she was eight, O'Connor was expelled from Catholic schools, arrested for shoplifting, and sent to reform and boarding schools.
At 15, singing Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen" at a wedding, she was discovered by Paul Byrne, the drummer for In Tua Nua, a band affiliated with U2. She cowrote In Tua Nua's first single, "Take My Hand," and began singing Dylan covers in coffeehouses. Fleeing boarding school at 16, she then studied voice and piano at Dublin's College of Music. She supported herself by waitressing and delivering "kiss-o-grams" in a French maid costume.
Moving to London in the early '80s at the behest of Ensign Records, O'Connor collaborated with U2 guitarist the Edge on a film soundtrack (The Captive, 1986) while preparing her debut album. The first tapes of that project were scrapped because O'Connor despised the Celtic-derived production. She self-produced The Lion and the Cobra (its title taken from Psalm 91), which ranged from orchestral rock to folk to dance pop. The album sold well (#36, 1988), but with O'Connor's celebrity came controversy.
By then the mother of a son by her drummer, John Reynolds, O'Connor shocked the press by attacking U2 (calling the band's music "bombastic") and defending the IRA. She married Reynolds in 1988, but tumult continued with her firing of manager Fachtna O'Ceallaigh. The #1-selling I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and its Prince-written single, "Nothing Compares 2 U" (#1, 1990), raised O'Connor's profile even higher. (In 1991 she would allege that Prince had physically threatened her.)
Critics applauded her emotionally charged music (inspired by her separation from Reynolds), but British tabloids attacked her romance with black singer Hugh Harris and savaged her politics. Frank Sinatra assailed her refusal, at a 1990 New Jersey concert, to perform if the hall played "The Star-Spangled Banner," and that same year O'Connor canceled a Saturday Night Live appearance in protest against what she perceived as host Andrew "Dice" Clay's misogyny.
Nominated for four Grammy Awards, she withdrew from the competition and aligned herself in interviews with rap rebels N.W.A and Ice-T. That year, she also contributed to Red Hot + Blue, a Cole Porter tribute album to benefit AIDS charities. (Her previous outside projects had included the B side of a single by Colourfield and vocals for 1988's Stay Awake, an album of Disney film music.)
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