sinead oconnor
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor at Prince’s party at Camden Palace. 25th July 1988. (Photo by Paul Greaves/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Trigger warning: This story contains mentions of suicide.

Just 11 days after the world lost icon Jane Birkin, another is gone. Dublin-born music sensation Sinead O’Connor has tragically died, aged 56, just 18 months after her 17-year-old son took his own life.

The mother-of-four and “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer’s last Tweets indicated she had been mentally struggling after her son, Shane, escaped from hospital while on suicide watch in January 2022. He was later found dead.

“Been living as undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul,” O’Connor tweeted on July 17 2023. “We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally. I am lost in the bardo without him.”

O’Connor had also recently posted a series of anguished Spotify links, including one “dedicated to mothers of suicided children.”

In a statement, the singer and songwriter’s family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

At the time of publish, O’Connor’s cause of death is unknown.

Born into a troubled and abusive family in 1966, O’Connor was placed into a corrective school at age 15. It was here a nun spotted her musical talent and encouraged O’Connor to take guitar lessons. Through a local advertisement in Dublin, the young musician linked up with Irish music composer Colm Farrelly and together they formed a band which gained traction in the music industry.

In 1990, O’Connor released her album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which sold more than seven million copies and included her breakthrough hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” which was written by Prince. The heart-wrenching ballad about longing and loss—perhaps even more haunting in her death—was named the number one single in the world in 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards.

The acclaimed performer would go on to release 10 studio albums.

Outspoken and ahead of her time, O’Connor was known for her pained expressions, shaved head and her progressive views on feminism, war, and the Catholic Church. She even ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1992.

“Everyone wants a pop star, see?” she wrote in her 2021 memoir Rememberings. “But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame.”

O’Connor married four times and had four children. She is survived by her three children.

Vale, Sinéad.

If this article was at all triggering to you, 24/7 support is available. You can reach a counsellor from Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. If you’re in crisis or feeling unsafe, please call 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.