Sinead O'Connor Remembers Differently (released 2021) (2023)

Sinead O'Connor Remembers Differently (released 2021) (1)

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The dominant narrative is that on Saturday Night Live, a pop star ripped up a photo of the Pope and his life derailed. What if the opposite were true?

Sinead O'Connor's memoir, Rememberings, tells her career story from her perspective.Credit...Elius Grace for the New York Times

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    (Video) Sinéad O’Connor, Author, “Rememberings” (Full Stream 6/9)

Sinead O'Connor being alone is what she loves most. She's surviving the pandemic in a small Irish hill town, watching murder shows, buying fairy garden ornaments online and checking out American news on CNN. On a recent overcast afternoon, she had a navy hijab draped over her shaved head and a cigarette constantly wedged between her fingertips, and as she bent over an iPad in her all-glass sunroom, it looked like it was hermetically sealed in place. Your body. own little world.

"I'm lucky," she said, "because I like my own company."

Her cottage was decorated in bright, saturated colors that stood out against the dreary backdrop of the Irish sky with the surreal quality of a pop-up book. Bubble gum roses covered the windows and the Hindu goddess Durga stretched out her eight arms over a blanket on a cozy cherry wood sofa. When O'Connor, 54, gave me a quick iPad tour during our video interview, things seemed to come crashing down: The flowers were fake, bought from, and her beautiful velvet chairs weren't made for sitting. .

"I intentionally bought uncomfortable chairs because I don't like people sitting in them for a long time," she said. "I like to be alone." But she revealed it with a giggle so mischievous it almost sounded like an invitation.

O'Connor is irresistible, no matter how hard she fights. She exudes a tender intimacy thanks to her angelic smile, loose tongue and the fact that she has one of pop culture's most iconic heads. By the early 1990s, O'Connor had become so famous that the dimensions of her skull seemed etched into the public consciousness. If you remember two things about her, it's that she rose to fame with that permanent close-up video of her performance of Nothing Compares 2 U - and then that she was staring into a Saturday Night Live camera.tore up a picture of Pope John Paul IIand killed his career.

But O'Connor doesn't see it that way. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. Now she's written her memoir, Rememberings, which reimagines the story from her perspective. "I feel like a No. 1 record ruined my career," she writes, "and tearing up the picture got me back on track."

O'Connor saw herself as a punk protest singer. As she rose to the top of the pop charts, she stuck. "The media drove me crazy for not behaving the way a pop star should behave," she told me. "It seems to me that being a pop star is almost like being in some kind of prison. You must be a good girl. And that's not Sinead O'Connor.


Sinead O'Connor Remembers Differently (released 2021) (3)
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"LOCA" IS AWort who does dirty cultural work. It's a reverse way of referring to mental illness, yes. But it's also a slippery label that has little to do with how a person's brain works and everything to do with how they're culturally received. Calling someone crazy is the best technique to silence. It robs a person of their own subjectivity.

By the time O'Connor showed up on S.N.L. in October 1992, she had already been branded insane - byBoycott the Grammy Awardswhere she fought for the year's record (they only recognized "material gains," she said) andrefuse to play"The Star-Spangled Banner" before their concerts (because national anthems "have nothing to do with music in general"). But now his reputation seemed to be in permanent jeopardy.

"I don't regret doing it. It was brilliant," she said of her protest against abuse in the Catholic Church. "But it was very traumatizing," he added. "It was an open season to treat me like a crazy bitch."

Shortly after the show, O'Connor performed at a Bob Dylan tribute concert, and when the crowd booed, they were so stunned that at first they thought they were making fun of his outfit. Joe Pescithreatenedbeating her in a "S.N.L" monologue and later, on the same stage, Madonnashe mockedin a gently condescending manner, scowling and tearing up a photo of tabloid sex offender Joey Buttafuoco. O'Connor was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and a group called the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, who hired a steamroller to crush hundreds of their albums in front of their label's headquarters. The Washington Times called her "the face of pure hate" and Frank Sinatra called her "a stupid girl."

Now, O'Connor's memoir comes at a time when culture seems eager to reassess those old judgments. The main comment toein YouTube-Ripfrom O'Connor's episode "Behind the Music" reads: "We can all say she was right!" Few cultural shipwrecks have been confirmed over time: the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up within the Catholic Church are no longer an open secret.John Paul II finally recognizedthe Church's role in 2001, nearly a decade after O'Connor's act of defiance.

But the overreaction to O'Connor wasn't just about being right or wrong; It was about the kind of provocations we get from women in music. "Not because I was famous or anything, but because I was human, I had the right to put my hand up and say what I felt," O'Connor said. Some artists are adept at shocking in a way that aims to sell more records, and others at channeling their political anger in tasty music, but "Sinead's not the moderate type," her friend Bob Geldof told me, a musician and activist. "She's Irish in that."

To understand why O'Connor found her cultural blacklist liberating, you have to understand how deeply misunderstood she has been throughout her career. She was still a teenager when she began work on her wild and ethereal first album, The Lion and the Cobra, when a manager — "a square up to the sky high" — called her to lunch and told her she should dress appropriately. more feminine and lets her cropped hair grow out. So she went to a barber and shaved it off. "I looked like an alien," she writes in the book, which was something of an escape from looking like a human woman. When O'Connor became pregnant mid-shoot, she writes that the executive called a doctor and tried to force her to have an abortion, which she refused. Their first child, Jake, was born just before the album.

Later, when "Nothing Compares 2 U" propelled her to stardom, O'Connor said the song's composer Prince scared her. she hadpromisedto reveal the details of "when I'm a little old lady and write my book," and now she's done it: She writes that Prince called her into his spooky Hollywood mansion, berated her for appearing in interviews swearing, and radioed her butler to serve her soup, though she repeatedly declined, sweetly suggesting a pillow fight, only to smack her with something hard, which he stuffed into her pillowcase. When she fled on foot in the middle of the night, she writes, he followed her in his car, got out and chased her down the freeway.

Prince is the kind of artist who's hailed as insane in a good way, as in "You have to be insane to be a musician," O'Connor said, "but there's a difference between being insane and being a violent one being an abuser of women.” . The fact that her most famous song comes from this person doesn't bother her at all. "As for me," she said, "it's my music."

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O'CONNOR STATEMENT ON "S.N.L." It was more personal than many thought. In the book, she describes how her mother physically abused her during her childhood. "I won the prize in kindergarten for being able to curl up into the smallest ball, but my teacher never knew why I was so good at it," she writes. There's a reason she bursts into tears when talking about her mom's flowers in the Nothing Compares 2 U video. O'Connor was 18 when her mother died, and that day she took the only picture on her mother's bedroom wall: the picture of the Pope. O'Connor carefully guarded the photo, waiting for the right moment to destroy it.

"Child abuse is an identity crisis and fame is an identity crisis, so I went straight from one identity crisis to the next," she said. And when she tried to raise awareness for child abuse through her fame, she was vilified. "People would say she's fragile," Geldof said. "No, no, no. A lot of people would have collapsed under the weight of being Sinead O'Connor if it wasn't for Sinead.

Instead, O'Connor felt free. "I could just be me. do what i love be imperfect. Get mad, see you,” she writes in the book. "I'm not a pop star. I'm just a troubled soul who has to yell into the mics every once in a while." She sees the backlash as leading her away from the wrong life of mainstream pop and forcing her to make a living performing live, where she feels most comfortable as an artist.

"Memoirs" is a document of a difficult life, but also wonderfully funny, starting with the title. ("Like I said, I can't remember many details because I was high all the time," she writes.) It's full of charming tales from the height of her fame. She dismisses Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis' claim that they had something ("Only on your mind"), but does confirm an affair with Peter Gabriel (to discover the mundane term she puts on their affair, you have to You read ) .


But the book doesn't provide a nice, cheery reasoning. These moments of cultural re-evaluation can feel like handing out a consolation prize; the consequences of previous judgments can never really be reversed. Meanwhile, the same dynamic repeats itself over and over again. In recent years, O'Connor's sanity has become raw material for the therapy and entertainment complex, which is overseen by artists such asDr. DreweDr. Philwho thrive on portraying illness as drama and turning pain into spectacle.

O'Connor saw a little bit of herself in the women who came after her - in Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears. "What they did to Britney Spears was disgusting," she said. "If you saw a stranger crying on the street, you would hug her. You wouldn't start taking pictures of her, you know? It didn't escape O'Connor that she shaved her hair the night Spears was declared insane. "Why did they say she was crazy about shaving her head?" she said. "I'm not."

O'Connor still shaves his own head every 10 days. "I just don't feel like myself when I have hair," she said. She now usually wears a hijab over it; She converted to Islam a few years ago and began using the name Shuhada Sadaqat, although she still reports to O'Connor as well. She wrote the first part of her memoir in 2015, but after a hysterectomy and what she puts in the book, a "total breakdown," she needed time to revisit the project.

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She spent six years in and out of psychiatric institutions - the book is dedicated in part to the hospital's staff and patients. Patrick's University Hospital - and now she has some clarity on how her mind works: mainly that she has Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. His difficulty remembering the post "S.N.L." Menstruation is also a product of trauma. "It's been a very lonely 10 years," O'Connor said. "I really trust the subconscious," she added. "If he doesn't want you to remember something, there's a good reason for it."


O'CONNOR NEVER UNDERSTANDwhy people were so attracted to his music. But a few years ago, after a long hiatus from the streets, she was preparing to go on tour and "I couldn't remember the friggin' words to any of the songs.She said. For the first time, she surfed the Internet in search of past artifacts from her career. "I thought, Jesus Christ, that's really good," she said. "That's me! Oh my god!"

A few years ago, Irish producer David Holmes, struck by an event, approached O'Connor and asked if she would record an album with him about healing. "She's an incredibly complex person and should never be judged," Holmes told me. "She makes no effort to hurt anyone. She's just Sinead and she wears her heart on her sleeve. The seven-track album No Veteran Dies Alone will be released later this year.

O'Connor's ethereal sound took on an attractive, raw undercurrent. When she sings "There are two selfs, the one you see / and the real me, who I shouldn't be" on the title track, her appeal is undeniable. As Holmes said, "She's got that voice, she's like a friend."

O'Connor's own friends describe her as a naturally loving person. "She's a generous soul," Pogues singer Shane MacGowan told me over email. "She took care of me when I really needed it." Her longtime friend Kara Hanahoe said, "I just found her trustworthy and I think that's probably the most important thing."

O'Connor is a dedicated email correspondent; As I wrote, she would send me emails with the caption "Sinead/Shuhada" and broken emojis of sunglasses and cherry blossoms. But her PTSD complex led to agoraphobia, and her living arrangements didn't always allow people to stay around. Geldof has friends who don't speak to O'Connor anymore, but he's not one of them. "She can say whatever she wants about me and my wife," he said. "Because it is."

O'Connor is happy to be alone, with her garden and her Mayfair cigarettes and her iPads, and her "imaginary friend", Taye Diggs, to keep her company through episodes of Murder in the First. "I haven't been very successful as a girlfriend or as a wife," she said. "I'm kind of boring, let's be honest."

But a few months ago, when she'd moved into her delightfully secluded cottage, she'd discovered several other single women living alone nearby. Soon some of them appeared offering bread and biscuits and she found herself with a group of friends for the first time since she was a teenager. "We bury bodies for each other," she said.

The problem with publishing memoirs is that O'Connor has been forced to relive his past, and that can be a traumatic experience, even if it spurs a cultural reckoning. "Down the Mountain, as I call it, no one can forget Sinead O'Connor," she said. But nobody in the village cares, "which is nice for me," she said. "It's nice to have friends."


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