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Sinéad O'Connor

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Biography

Sinéad O'Connor ranked among the most distinctive and controversial pop music stars of the alternative era, the first and in many ways, the most influential of the numerous female performers whose music dominated airwaves throughout the last decade of the 20th century. Brash and outspoken -- her shaved head, angry visage, and shapeless wardrobe a direct challenge to popular culture's long-prevailing notions of femininity and sexuality -- O'Connor irrevocably altered the image of women in rock; railing against long-standing stereotypes simply by asserting herself not as a sex object, but as a serious artist, she kick-started a revolt which led the way for performers ranging from Liz Phair to Courtney Love to Alanis Morissette. O'Connor was born in Dublin, Ireland, on December 8, 1966. Her childhood was often traumatic: her parents divorced when she was eight, and she later claimed that her mother, who was killed in a 1985 automobile accident, frequently abused her. After being expelled from Catholic school, O'Connor was arrested for shoplifting and was shuttled off to a reformatory; at the age of 15, while singing a cover of Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen" at a wedding, she was spotted by Paul Byrne, the drummer for the Irish band In Tua Nua (best known as protégés of U2). After co-writing the first In Tua Nua single, "Take My Hand," O'Connor left boarding school in order to focus on a career in music, and began performing in area coffeehouses; she later studied voice and piano at the Dublin College of Music, and supported herself delivering singing telegrams. Upon signing a contract with Ensign Records in 1985, O'Connor relocated to London; the following year she made her recorded debut on the soundtrack to the film The Captive, appearing with U2 guitarist the Edge. After scrapping the initial tapes for her debut LP on the grounds that the production was too Celtic, she took the producer's seat herself and began re-recording the album, dubbed The Lion and the Cobra in reference to Psalm 91; the result was one of the most acclaimed debut records of 1987, with a pair of alternative radio hits in the singles "Mandinka" and "Troy." Almost from the outset of her career, however, O'Connor was a controversial media figure; in interviews following the LP's release, she defended the actions of the IRA, resulting in widespread criticism from many corners, and even burned bridges by attacking longtime supporters U2, whose music she declared "bombastic." However, O'Connor remained a cult figure prior to the release of 1990's chart-topping I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, a harrowing masterpiece sparked by the recent dissolution of her marriage to drummer John Reynolds. Boosted by the single and video "Nothing Compares 2 U," originally penned by Prince, the album established her as a major star, but again controversy followed as tabloids took aim at her romance with black singer Hugh Harris while continuing to attack her outspoken politics. On American shores, O'Connor also became the target of derision for refusing to perform in New Jersey if "The Star Spangled Banner" was played prior to her appearance, a move which brought public criticism from no less than Frank Sinatra, who threatened to "kick her ass"; she also made headlines for pulling out of an appearance on the NBC program Saturday Night Live in response to the misogynist persona of guest host Andrew Dice Clay, and even withdrew her name from competition in the annual Grammy Awards despite four nominations. O'Connor also continued to confound expectations with her third album, 1992's Am I Not Your Girl?, a collection of pop standards and torch songs that failed to live up to either the commercial or critical success of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. However, any discussion of the record's creative merits quickly became moot in the wake of her most controversial and damaging action yet: after finally appearing on Saturday Night Live, O'Connor ended her performance by ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II, resulting in a wave of condemnation unlike any she'd previously encountered. Two weeks after the SNL performance, she appeared at a Bob Dylan tribute concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, and was promptly booed off the stage. By then a virtual pariah, O'Connor's retirement from the music business was subsequently reported, although it was later claimed that she had merely returned to Dublin with the intent of studying opera. She kept a low profile for the next several years, starring as Ophelia in a theatrical production of Hamlet and later touring with Peter Gabriel's WOMAD festival. She also reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown and even made a half-hearted attempt at suicide. In 1994, however, O'Connor returned to pop music with the LP Universal Mother, which, despite good reviews, failed to relaunch her to superstar status; the following year she announced that she would no longer speak to the press. The Gospel Oak EP followed in 1997, and in mid-2000 O'Connor issued Faith and Courage, her first full-length effort in six years. Sean-Nós Nua followed two years later, and was widely hailed for its return to the Irish folk tradition as its inspiration. O'Connor used the press exposure from the album to further assert her pending retirement from music. In September 2003, the two-disc She Who Dwells... appeared through Vanguard. It collected rare and previously unreleased studio tracks, as well as live material culled from a late 2002 date in Dublin. The album was positioned as O'Connor's swan song, though official word was not forthcoming. Collaborations followed in 2005, a compilation of appearances on other artists' records throughout her long career. Later that year she released Throw Down Your Arms, a collection of reggae classics from the likes of Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, and Bob Marley that managed to reach the number four spot on Billboard's Top Reggae Albums chart. O'Connor returned to the studio the following year to begin work on her first album of all-new material since Faith and Courage. The resulting Theology, inspired by the complexities of the world post-9/11, was released in 2007 through Koch Records on the artist's own imprint, That's Why There's Chocolate & Vanilla. O'Connor's ninth studio, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, tackled familiar subjects like sexuality, religion, hope, and despair, all of which were subjects that dominated her post-Theology personal and public life. After a relatively quiet period, O'Connor found herself once again embroiled in controversy in 2013 after a personal dispute with singer Miley Cyrus, who O'Connor wrote an open letter to warning her of exploitation and the dangers of the music industry. Cyrus also responded with an open letter, which seemed to mock the Irish singer's documented mental health issues. O'Connor's tenth studio album, I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss appeared in August of 2014. Inspired by a Lean In's female empowerment campaign, Ban Bossy, the album was a rock-oriented and melodious affair as heard on the lead single "Take Me to the Church." ~ Jason Ankeny
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   Nothing Compares 2 U
  3.   Mandinka
  4.   Her Mantle So Green
  5.   The Emperor's New Clothes
  6.   I Want Your (Hands on Me)
  7.   I Am Stretched on Your Grave
  8.   Three Babies
  9.   I'll Tell Me Ma
  10.   Paddy's Lament
  11.   This Is to Mother You
  12.   All Apologies
  13.   Feels So Different
  14.   Jump in the River
  15.   Oro Se Do Bheatha 'Bhaile
  16.   You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart
  17.   Tiny Grief Song
  18.   The Moorlough Shore
  19.   The Parting Glass
  20.   The Singing Bird
  21.   I Believe in You
  22.   Don't Cry for Me Argentina
  23.   The Last Day of Our Acquaintance
  24.   Troy
  25.   Fire on Babylon
  26.   Black Boys on Mopeds
  27.   Mind Games
  28.   Visions of You
  29.   Daddy I'm Fine
  30.   I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City
  31.   Empire: Bomb the Bass by Benjamin Zephaniah
  32.   Jackie
  33.   What Do You Want
  34.   Damn Your Eyes
  35.   Silent Night
  36.   You Do Something to Me
  37.   Someday My Prince Will Come
  38.   I'm Not Your Baby
  39.   Harbour
  40.   James Brown by Seun Kuti
  41.   Little Story
  42.   Make a Fool of Me All Night
  43.   How Nice a Woman Can Be
  44.   Streetcars
  45.   Where Have You Been?
  46.   8 Good Reasons
  47.   James Brown
  48.   The Voice of My Doctor
  49.   The Vishnu Room
  50.   Your Green Jacket
  51.   Kisses Like Mine
  52.   Take Me to Church
  53.   How About I Be Me
  54.   Factories
  55.   V.I.P.
  56.   I Had a Baby
  57.   Very Far From Home
  58.   Queen of Denmark
  59.   The Wolf Is Getting Married
  60.   Back Where You Belong
  61.   Take Off Your Shoes
  62.   Old Lady
  63.   Reason With Me
  64.   4th and Vine
  65.   Song to the Siren
  66.   Night Nurse
  67.   Angel
  68.   I Don't Know How to Love Him
  69.   Hosanna Filio David
  70.   Out of the Depths
  71.   We People Who Are Darker Than Blue
  72.   Something Beautiful
  73.   Rivers of Babylon
  74.   Whomsoever Dwells
  75.   Watcher of Men
  76.   The Glory of Jah
  77.   If You Had a Vineyard
  78.   33
  79.   Dark I Am Yet Lovely
  80.   All Kinds of Everything by Terry Hall
  81.   Tears from the Moon
  82.   Wake Up and Make Love with Me
  83.   Dense Water Deeper Down
  84.   It's All Good
  85.   Lord Franklin
  86.   Peggy Gordon
  87.   Lord Baker
  88.   I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
  89.   Kyrie Eleison
  90.   Emma's Song
  91.   What Doesn't Belong to Me
  92.   Dancing Lessons
  93.   No Man's Woman
  94.   My Special Child
  95.   Gloomy Sunday
  96.   Black Coffee
  97.   Secret Love
  98.   Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
  99.   Someone to Watch Over Me
  100.   Summer's End by Ashtar Command
  101.   Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
  102.   This Is a Rebel Song
  103.   Scarlet Ribbons
  104.   House of the Rising Sun
  105.   Just Call Me Joe
  106.   Drink Before the War
  107.   Never Get Old
  108.   Just Like U Said It Would B
  109.   The Value of Ignorance
  110.   He Moved Through the Fair
  111.   Thank You for Hearing Me
  112.   Famine
  113.   In This Heart
  114.   All Babies
  115.   A Perfect Indian
  116.   Red Football
  117.   Am I a Human?
  118.   My Darling Child
  119.   John I Love You
  120.   Germaine
  121.   Jerusalem
  122.   Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home
  123.   I Want to Be Loved by You
  124.   Love Letters
  125.   How Insensitive
  126.   My Man's Gone Now
  127.   Essence of Love
  128.   Streets of London
  129.   How About I Be Me Pop Reggae Mix
  130.   Trouble Will Soon Be Over
  131.   Ave Maria
  132.   Once In Royal David's City
  133.   Property of Jesus
  134.   Baby, Let Me Buy You a Drink by Liam Ó Maonlaí
  135.   Monkey in Winter
  136.   Blood of Eden by Peter Gabriel
  137.   Baidin Fheilimi
  138.   Molly Malone
  139.   My Lagan Love
  140.   You Cause as Much Sorrow
  141.   If U Ever
  142.   The Lamb's Book of Life
  143.   Hold Back the Night
  144.   'Til I Whisper U Something
  145.   Jealous
  146.   The Healing Room
  147.   Lullaby for Cain
  148.   Why Don't You Do Right?
  149.   Heroine
  150.   My Love
  151.   Petit Poulet
  152.   I Am Enough for Myself
  153.   My Love I Bring
  154.   How About I Be Me In Dub
  155.   Scarlett Ribbons
  156.   Scorn Not His Simplicity
  157.   The State I'm In
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