Thursday, July 27, 2023

Remembering Sinead O'Connor:


Sinead on stage at Lollapalooza, July 1995, Denver
Photo by Steve Terrell

I'm still pretty shook about the death of Sinead O'Connor.

As I wrote on social media yesterday, I got to see her in person twice -- once at Lollapalooza 1995 in Denver and ten a few years later when she opened for The Chieftains at Red Rocks. Both shows fantastic. 

I'd like to share a couple of things I've written about the lady back in the 1990s.

Let's start with an excerpt from an old music column published not long after her infamous final appearance on Saturday Night Live and subsequent experience being booed off the stage at a star-studded Bob Dylan  30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in October 1992.

From Terrell’s Tune-up, Santa Fe New Mexican, 10-30-92

O'Connor recently tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live , causing one of the biggest public backlashes against a rock singer since John Lennon declared The Beatles bigger than Jesus.

... Public reaction was swift and predictable. Even Madonna got in on the act, saying O'Comnnor's action was tasteless ...

… But the supreme irony was when O’Connor was booed at the recent Bob Dylan tribute concert. 

Those self-righteous Dylan fans apparently don’t remember their hero getting booed at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival by prissy folkies who didn’t like the fact that Dylan had taken up the electric guitar.

Kris Kristofferson showed what he was made of when he comforted O’Connor on stage.

My question is why didn’t Dylan himself say anything to the crowd?

Did the great one not want to offend his pay-per-view television audience?

[concerning her Saturday Night Live controversy}] a…one thing you’ve got to admit, is that O’Connor illustrated the long dormant potential for excitement in live television.

She illustrated that point better than anyone since Jack Ruby. …

And yes, after reading about Kristofferson coming out on stage to comfort Sinead, my regard for Kris, which already was tremendous, tripled.

Just a few years later I saw Sinead in person at Lollapalooza 1995 in Denver. I was there mostlyb for Sonic Youth and Beck, but Sinead's performance was the biggest surprise for me:

From "No Love Lost for Courtney," Santa Fe New Mexican, 7-30-95

One of the most intriguing aspects of this Lollapalooza traveling rock festival line-up was that it featured two women who each have been considered The Wicked Witch of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Courtney Love and Sinead O’Connor. …

You know the attributes of Wicked Witch. Her evil spells cause the morals of the nation’s youth to decline. Sometimes they lead male rockers to stray. They cause crops to fail and cattle to die.

The position of Wicked Witch was first assumed by Yoko Ono in the late 1960s, though I suppose some could argue that the concept had its origins with Marianne Faith (the naked girl at The Rolling Stones’ drug bust!)

At the beginning of this decade, the witch’s proverbial broom had been passed to O’Connor.

When her record company wanted to market her sexuality, she angrily shaved her head – just like one of them Manson girls! She refused to have “The Star Spangled Banner” played before one of her shows. She tore up a picture of the pope right there on national TV.

After that, Sinead seemed to play fade away, while a new witch – who was even more wicked arose – Courtney Love …

[I go on to bash Courtney’s predictable shtick at Lollapalooza before getting back to Sinead]

… In her long white dress and her newly grown hair, the diminutive singer looked more like a Celtic goddess than an angry, unsmiling being she once had been. And she sang as beautifully as she looked.

No, O’Connor hasn’t become Little Mary Sunshine. Some of her rage remains, as apparent in her rap song that compares her native Ireland with an abused child. [“Famine” from her then-latest album Universal Mother

And she’s still got guts. It took courage to do a pretty a capella song for a crowd more attune with The Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth. But she pulled it off. [I can’t swear to this, but that song might have been "Tiny Grief Song," which is on Universal Mother.] 

In short, a listener felt uplifted after O’Connor’s performance. One can only hope Courtney caught a couple of O’Connor’s sets [on the tour]. She could learn a lot

Here is my favorite song that Sinead performed on Lollapalooza that day. This is a more recent version: 

Thank YOU, Sinead!

This is a photo of a mural in Dublin I saw a few years ago.


  1. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Powerful writing, Steve! Thank you for sharing. She was a meteor that can't help but burn and burn itself out. May she rest in peace.


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