Sinead O’Connor revealed she got into music ‘as therapy’ to cope with trauma of abuse inflicted on her by her mother in haunting interview filmed before Irish singer’s shock death
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Sinead O’Connor revealed that she got into music ‘as therapy’ to cope with the trauma caused by the abuse inflicted on her by her mother in a haunting final interview filmed before her shock death on Wednesday.
Documentary Nothing Compares, which airs on Sky Documentaries on Saturday, was made before Ms O’Connor’s tragic death, but will act as a homage to her.
The Grammy-winning Irish singer, 56, was found ‘unresponsive’ at a flat in south-east London after police were called but detectives are not treating the star’s sudden death as suspicious.
The coroner was notified of the death on Wednesday, after police found the her unresponsive at a home in Herne Hill.
The world is mourning the death of Ms O’Connor, who was propelled to international stardom in 1990 with her version of Prince’s hit ballad Nothing Compares 2 U which topped charts around the world.
Sinead O’Connor (pictured) revealed that she got into music ‘as therapy’ to cope with the trauma caused by the abuse inflicted on her by her mother, in a haunting final interview filmed before her shock death on Wednesday
Documentary Nothing Compares, which airs on Sky Documentaries on Saturday, was made before Ms O’Connor’s tragic death, but will act as a homage to her
The moment Sinead O’Connor cries in the Nothing Compares 2 U music video
Despite her incredible music success, O’Connor always wanted to be a protest singer rather than a pop star and over the years she became well-known for being outspoken about her social and political views.
READ MORE: Neighbours reveal Sinead O’Connor was ‘smiling and happy’ and chatting to them days before she was found dead aged 56 in her new £3,000-a-month London apartment
Ms O’Connor had only returned to London recently after living away for 23 years and told fans she was ‘happy to be home’. She had been finishing an album that was due to be released next year and was planning a world tour.
But she did not get into music for fame, but instead as a form of therapy, The Mirror reports. She said: ‘There was no therapy when I was growing up, so the reason I got into music was therapy. Which is why it was was such a shock for me to become a pop star. It’s not what I wanted. I just wanted to scream.’
One of five children, Ms O’Connor spoke out about being subjected to physical abuse at the hands of her mother, who died in a car crash in 1985. At the age of 15, she was placed in a Magdalene asylum for shoplifting and truancy.
Ms O’Connor said: ‘Everybody in music has a story in terms of their upbringing, or where they came from or what they went through.
‘You know there is something they need to get off their chest, and perhaps we all need a bit of love and affection that we didn’t get anywhere else, but we get by making music.’
In her last interview she recalled her first musical memory of her father singing Scarlet Ribbons while the was lying in bed. ‘I just remember being blown away, I remember like yesterday lying on my pillow and my dad singing this song to me. I was like, “Oh my God”, the angels came in the window.
‘My mother was a very violent woman, not a healthy woman, she was physically, verbally, psychologically, spiritually and emotionally abusive. My mother was a beast. And I was able to soothe her with my voice. I was able to use my voice to make the devil fall asleep.’
She said how her debut single Troy, from her 1987 album The Lion and the Cobra, channeled her memories from a cruel punishment delivered by her mother where she forced her to live in the garden for one or two weeks when she was eight.
‘It was the first song where I am telling anybody about anything that happened,’ she said, and described it as ‘like trauma therapy’.
‘I’m out in the garden in the f***ing dark and when it’s coming to dusk – I still hate dusk to this day. And I’d be looking up at the only window at the side of the house where she’d have a light on and I’d be screaming, begging her to let me in. And she wouldn’t let me in. The light would go off. The house go dark.’
Ms O’Connor said she stopped performing the song as every time she did she thought of her mother.
Documentary director Kathryn Ferguson has said tht Sinead O’Connor’s ‘fire lit a torch for so many of us… particularly those who really needed her light’.
The Irish musician was known for her powerful vocals and lyrics as well as taking fierce stances on social and political issues such as the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the sexualisation of female musicians.
Belfast-born filmmaker Ms Ferguson said she hopes her 2022 documentary, Nothing Compares, will ‘serve as a reminder of her greatness’ after her death on Wednesday aged 56.
Ferguson said she was ‘devastated’ after hearing of the singer’s death, saying: ‘We’ve lost such a special, funny and magnificent human being.
Ms O’Connor had only returned to London recently after living away for 23 years and told fans she was ‘happy to be home’
The block in south-east London where Sinead is believed to have recently moved in
This is the kitchen where the Irish singer made her last Twitter video
‘Her fire lit a torch for so many of us, particularly those who grew up in the 1990s, and those who really needed her light.
‘Her music and her activism touched people deeply in nearly every country in the world.
‘She was not only ahead of her time, but courageous and unwavering.
‘Her authenticity, her boldness and her distilled vision about what mattered most cut through the noise and reached people, particularly people with hearts that were open.’
In 1992, O’Connor sparked controversy when she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on US sketch show Saturday Night Live in protest at the Catholic Church, and the backlash was vitriolic.
The documentary also features content from some of her music videos and concert performances, previously unseen footage and a more recent interview.
Ferguson said it was a ‘tremendous privilege’ to make the programme with the singer’s blessing.
‘It was my love letter to Sinead, and one that I hope will continue to serve as a reminder of her greatness,’ she added.
‘When we first launched the film, the response to her and her story was like an avalanche of love, and I can feel that love today as we collectively grieve her passing.
‘We’ve lost such a special, funny and magnificent human being. We were very lucky to have her in the first place, I just wish we had treated her better.
‘I hope there is a lesson somewhere in this to treat each other more kindly.’
On Wednesday’s edition of BBC Breakfast, Ferguson also reflected on the impact the music video for Nothing Compares 2 U had on young women growing up in Ireland in the 1990s.
The video shows a distinctive close-up of her in a black polo neck, singing straight to the camera as tears roll down her cheeks.
Ferguson said: ‘This was the MTV generation with so much happening, and graphics, and there was a lot of bells and whistles in our pop videos at that point.
‘And I think it was such a distilled, pure, potent piece of film and it just connected with literally the millions around the world, and it’s surely one of the most famous videos of all time and will always be.
‘I can just speak as an Irish woman and what she’s meant to me and to us.
‘She was just this huge icon to all of us, someone that we hugely admired and looked up to.
‘And the big reason that I wanted to make the film at all was because of the impact she had on me as a young Irish teenager growing up, and the impact she had and the emotional dent that was left when I and my friends witnessed what then went on to her, happened to her, in the mid 90s and the backlash that she endured.’
Documentary director Kathryn Ferguson has said tht Sinead O’Connor’s ‘fire lit a torch for so many of us… particularly those who really needed her light’
One of five children, Ms O’Connor spoke out about being subjected to physical abuse at the hands of her mother, who died in a car crash in 1985
Ms O’Connor died on Wednesday morning. Police were called to her home in the SE24 area of London, which covers Herne Hill and sits between Brixton and Dulwich. Notable SE24 residents include actors Mark Rylance, Olivia Colman and James Nesbitt.
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘Police were called at 11.18am on Wednesday, July 26 to reports of an unresponsive woman at a residential address in the SE24 area. Officers attended. A 56-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene.
‘Next of kin have been notified. The death is not being treated as suspicious. A file will be prepared for the Coroner.’
A post-mortem examination to confirm the cause of Sinead’s death appears likely. It is not yet confirmed that she died in her own home.
It came as MailOnline revealed that Sinead said she wanted to go on tour next year in a buoyant post a fortnight ago, writing: ‘The b*tch is back’.
The star had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, especially after the death of her son Shane last year at the age of 17.
Family, friends and fans have been left heartbroken by her death yesterday. REM frontman Michael Stipe, US singer Tori Amos and Irish musician Shane MacGowan are among those who paid tribute to O’Connor’s talent and legacy.
There is also the question of her fortune, which some say could be £4million but others estimate may have dwindled to nothing despite royalties from her biggest hit Nothing Compares 2 U, originally written by Prince.
Nothing Compares will be available from Saturday on Sky Documentaries and Now and will also be shown on Sky Showcase and Sky Arts.
In a statement yesterday evening, her family said: ‘It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinead. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.’
At the time of her death, the musician, who changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat in 2018 when she converted to Islam, was spending her time between Roscommon and London.
Mother-of-four Ms O’Connor is survived by her three remaining children.
Sinead O’Connor, pictured at MTV Video Music Awards in 1990, has died aged 56
O’Connor (pictured on stage in Italy, 2014), was left heartbroken last year at the death of her beloved teenage son Shane after he took his own life
At the time of her death O’Connor, pictured in 2020, had homes in Co Roscommon, Ireland, and London
Sinead revealed she was living like an ‘undead night creature’ since her son’s suicide last year in a poignant and desperate final Twitter post shortly before her death.
Shane, 17, took his own life in January 2022 after escaping hospital while on suicide watch.
She said: ‘He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally.’
Sinead also posted a series of Spotify links to sad songs, including one she dedicated to ‘all mothers of suicided children’. She also posted links to How Can You Mend A Broken Heart by Al Green, as well as Curtis Mayfield’s Here But I’m Gone and No One Knows About A Good Thing.
In 2012, O’Connor cancelled a planned tour, saying her doctor had told her to rest after a ‘very serious breakdown’.
And, in November 2015, she posted a message on Facebook saying she had taken an overdose at a hotel in Ireland.
The next month, she said she had been detained in a hospital for mental health evaluation.
O’Connor was reported missing in the US in May 2016 when she failed to return from an early morning bike ride after making a series of Facebook posts about her family. October 2018 saw her announce she had converted to Islam and changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat.
Following her son’s funeral last year, O’Connor posted a series of tweets in which she said she had ‘decided to follow my son’ but later apologised and said she was being admitted to hospital.
She is survived by her three children, Jake, 34, Róisín, 25, and Yeshua, 15.
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