Published Mar 06, 2012There are few figures in music more compelling and more complex than Sinéad O'Connor. She's been at the top of the music game and has suffered the lowest lows. She's retired and returned, she's recorded cover albums and Irish traditionals. But this month, she has returned with one of her strongest original albums of her career, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, even as her personal life has never seemed more tumultuous. As highlighted in Exclaim!'s new Timeline feature, here are five facts you may not know about her.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Sinéad O'Connor:
1. U2 were early supporters, then she turned on them. And they turned on her.
In 1985, she lands her first major gig: vocals and co-writing duties on the song "Heroine" with U2's the Edge for the soundtrack to the film, Captive. In 1987, O'Connor starts to cement her reputation as a shit disturber, calling out U2 repeatedly over the next few years as she does press for her album, becoming the new face of Irish music. She denounces Bono and the band as hypocrites and frauds.
Adam Clayton responds to Hot Press in 1989 about O'Connor's onslaught of attacks and is sceptical about her chance for success in the future. "The fact of the matter is that we went to a lot of trouble to help Sinéad's career in the early days. And that's what you do, if you can," Clayton says. "Now, for some reason, she cannot accept that and has had to lash out. But Bono in particular pioneered Sinéad. He went to a lot of trouble encouraging her; the Edge used her on the soundtrack for Captive; there were various negotiations with Ensign Records that Ossie Kilkenny was involved in -- so she's talking crap. I don't know why she's doing it. It's stupid. It's immature. She'll learn. But I know damn well that she won't be making records in ten years. I was interested in her because I thought she was a great talent and I thought she had a future. That's why you support people. Now I'm not so sure that she has what it takes to last."
2. Her record company was not supportive of her personal choices.
In 1986, she begins work on her own debut, The Lion and the Cobra, but everything comes to a screeching halt when she becomes pregnant by her drummer, John Reynolds. She tells Hot Press years later that when she confesses her pregnancy to the studio, they send her to a doctor who pressures her to abort. "I was only 19 and freaked and all, this doctor said to me, 'Your record company has spent one hundred thousand quid recording your record, and you owe it to them not to have the baby.' And then he tried to convince me that terrible things would happen to the baby, for example, if I went out on tour while I was pregnant, or got on an airplane or whatever, that the baby would be ill. Not that it would die, but that it would be born mentally handicapped. I swear on a stack of Bibles that that's literally what happened." O'Connor bows to the pressure and goes to have the abortion, but decides at the last minute to keep the baby and returns to work on her record. The original recording is deemed "too Celtic" and scrapped, so O'Connor, seven months pregnant, produces the album herself.
3. After famously tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, she became a Catholic priest.
O'Connor's seemingly volatile relationship with Christianity peaks in 1999; seven years after tearing up the Pope's picture and derailing her promising career, O'Connor becomes Mother Bernadette Mary, an ordained priestess of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, an independent Catholic group. In a BBC interview she apologizes for the SNL debacle, saying "I'm sorry I did that, it was a disrespectful thing to do. I have never even met the Pope. I am sure he is a lovely man. It was more an expression of frustration."
4. She's an admirer of Rastafarians and made a reggae album.
In the liner notes to O'Connor's fourth album, 2000's Faith and Courage, she writes "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the Beginning. Is now and ever shall be. World without end. Jah! Rastafari! Read I! This record is dedicated to all Rastafari people..." In 2006, she releases a reggae covers album Throwdown Your Arms.
5. She turned to Twitter to find love. And other stuff.
In August 2011, O'Connor writes on her website and Twitter that she's looking for a "sweet, sex-starved man," and makes clear her sexual appetite is quite diverse: "Yes I 'do anal' and in fact I would be deeply unhappy if 'doing anal' wasn't on the menu, amongst everything else$$ So if u don't like 'the difficult brown' don't apply..." and that women "will also be very much considered."