Unforgettable legacy of Sinéad O’Connor: more than just a one-hit-wonder

Could it be that 'Nothing Compares To You' had filtered into my youthful DNA?

Isn’t it strange how one woman with one number one hit 33 years ago – written by another person to boot – can move the world?

When Sinéad O’Connor’s death was announced last week, her picture appeared on front pages across the globe, reams were written about her, and supplements were produced in her native Ireland – where I live.

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My own heart was leaden. If Bono had died would I have felt as deeply? Enya? Westlife? I doubt it.

I’d sigh, play the songs, and move on. Could it be that Nothing Compares To You had filtered into my youthful DNA? Perhaps, but I think Sinéad herself seeped in too, her ethos, her presence, her madness, her magic.

One-hit wonder

You might call her a one-hit wonder but then you’d be disregarding how, after that one hit (and she had other brilliant songs), she kept on punching, and she always punched up.

That is why I mourn Sinéad; that is why I keep watching clips of her on the internet. She was a songbird, yes, mesmerising, yes, but she was also one of the bravest people who ever lived, standing up and shouting out her truth, which was often The Truth, fearlessly.

Or if she was fearful, she did it anyway. The trappings of stardom were of no interest except for the platform it gave her, and she was going to use it.

Didn’t mince her words

So she called bullshit every time she saw it. She didn’t check if it was in her best interests and she didn’t mince her words. She called out paedophilia in the church years before it became an international scandal; she called out American jingoism; she spoke out on Aids, racism, xenophobia, sexism, poverty, politics and religion.

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Sinéad showed a generation of women that it was okay, indeed necessary, to feel deeply, to voice your rage, to act on your conscience, and – crucially – to allow yourself to make mistakes, and to change your mind.

They say she was fragile; I say really? Lazily dismissed as crazy, she fought on regardless, a tiny woman with a mighty voice, never taking the easy road. Knocked down repeatedly, mocked, booed, threatened, she got up time and again and came back swinging. Until now. Truly, nothing compares.

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