Sinead O’Connor hailed as ‘a one-off and a huge talent’

Artists and famous faces from around the world have paid tribute to the Grammy-winning Irish singer and activist following her death aged 56.

Naomi Clarke
Thursday 27 July 2023 18:09 BST
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor (Sean Dempsey/PA)
Irish singer Sinead O’Connor (Sean Dempsey/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde and Viola Davis are among the stars who have remembered Sinead O’Connor as “bold and beautiful” with a “God-given voice”.

Artists from across the musical spectrum, writers, actors and politicians have paid tribute to the Grammy-winning Irish singer and activist following her death aged 56 at her home in London on Wednesday.

O’Connor, who was catapulted to fame in the 1990s with her version of the hit ballad Nothing Compares 2 U, was also known for being outspoken about her political and social views.

Scottish singer Lennox hailed O’Connor as “bold and beautiful” and a “truth teller” in a poetic tribute.

Alongside a close-up photo of the Irish singer’s face, Lennox spoke further about her artistic talents, writing: “Sinead… You bared your soul… Shared your brilliance / Through exquisite artistry

“Your incredible voice.. Fierce and fragile / Lioness and lamb / Sweet singing bird / Keenly tuned / Trembling..”

She added: “May the angels hold you in their tender arms and give you rest in peace.”

The Pretenders star Hynde described O’Connor as “a one-off and a huge talent”.

Speaking on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2, she recalled working with O’Connor on a tribute concert for Linda McCartney, saying: “She was such a riot to hang out with.

“She was a good fun person, but she was always angling, stirring it up. She was a real poking-the-hornet’s-nest kind (of person). Certainly a one-off and a huge talent and all this stuff that you read about.

“I was glad to see she’d got out of it, to be honest. She’s had a bad time in the last few years.”

Hynde added: “She’s in, without question, a better place. She was a tender-hearted person so she will be. Fly on, sweet angel.”

Oscar-winning actress Davis thanked the Irish singer for her “talent and voice” in a post on Instagram, adding: “Yesterday the world lost a great.”

US singer Cyndi Lauper said O’Connor was a “unique talent who made an indelible mark on pop culture”.

“Outspoken and brave. A lot of trials and tribulations. A great artist with an incredible voice. She will be missed,” she added in a post on Instagram alongside a photo of the singer from her earlier years.

Irish TV presenter Ryan Tubridy, who hit the headlines recently after broadcaster RTE admitted it had under-declared his earnings, said he was “devastated” after hearing the news of her death.

“We spoke days ago and she was as kind, powerful, passionate, determined and decent as ever,” he wrote in an Instagram post which was accompanied by a picture of him with O’Connor and his mother.

Recalling the occasion, he added: “This photo is from the night I went with my mum to see her in Vicar St.

“Rest in peace Sinead, you were ahead of your time and deserve whatever peace comes your way.”

Actor Russell Crowe also shared a sweet anecdote about the singer, saying on Twitter that he had met her last year while working in Ireland.

Recounting their meeting, he said: “There under streetlights with mist on my breath, I met Sinead. She looked in my eyes, and uttered with disarming softness ‘Oh, it’s you, Russell’.”

He wrote that he had “the opportunity to tell her she was a hero of mine”, adding: “When her second cup was taking on the night air, she rose, embraced us all and strode away into the fog-dimmed streetlights. We sat there, the four of us, and variously expressed the same thing.

“What an amazing woman. Peace be with your courageous heart, Sinead.”

The singer Cat Stevens, who like O’Connor converted to Islam, said “she was a tender soul”, while singer-songwriter Billy Bragg described her as “braver than brave”.

Writer Bonnie Greer described O’Connor, who had a massive hit with the Prince song Nothing Compares 2 U, as having a great soul music voice.

She tweeted: “Soul music is not about ‘ooh, baby, baby’. And I know about soul music because I was born and grew up around where Sam Cooke sang… and #Prince knew that #Sinead had it in her, too – that’s why she got his song.

“But her voice was #Ireland right down to the ground.”

Irish author Marian Keyes described the news as “heartbreaking”, describing the singer as an “amazing, brave, beautiful, unique wonder”, while writer Caitlin Moran said O’Connor was “the greatest voice of her generation, no contest” and “fearless”.

The Pogues star Shane MacGowan and his wife Victoria Mary Clarke thanked O’Connor for her “love and friendship”.

Posting a photo on Twitter of MacGowan and O’Connor together in their younger years, Clarke wrote: “We don’t really have words for this but we want to thank you Sinead.

“For your love and your friendship and your compassion and your humour and your incredible music.

“We pray that you are at peace now with your beautiful boy. Love Victoria and Shane.”

Musician Phil Coulter praised O’Connor as having one of the finest voices Ireland had ever produced.

“She had a God-given instrument, a God-given voice, certainly one of the finest voices this country has ever produced,” the Londonderry songwriter told the BBC.

“I am very fortunate in my long career, I have worked with some of the best singers around, some major talents, but I would put Sinead O’Connor high up there.”

Among other musicians to post tributes were Belinda Carlisle, Janelle Monae, UB40, Melissa Etheridge, Margo Price and Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello.

Irish comedian Dara O Briain said he hoped the singer “realised how much love there was for her”.

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