Sinead O'Connor was eligible for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 but didn't score her first nomination until 2024, the year after her death at age 56.

While her commercial success was somewhat fleeting - her 1990 cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" shot to No. 1 and sent the accompanying album to the top of the charts, but she never returned to the Top 10 - O'Connor's catalog includes 10 LPs and a handful of other works that kept her busy over the years. A photo-tearing controversy undoubtedly had some effect on her popularity with mainstream audiences, but her uncompromising and often challenging music could also be a hurdle.

She never flinched from public indifference or, worst, hostility. Even when an audience turned on her for her earlier social protest during a tribute concert for Bob Dylan, who got his start singing protest songs, she found inspiration in the moment. As an artist, she never turned her back on her ideals; as a person, she fought demons that could be traced to her childhood and were never conquered.

Her life was part of her work; they rarely separated. From the start, she sounded like no one (that voice was bigger and stronger than so many of that era) and never compromised her vision, even when it was detrimental to her career. All of this makes an artist truly worthy of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction.

Her Debut Single Was a Six-and-a-Half-Minute Epic Based on a 75-Year-Old Poem

O'Connor's first single, "Troy," ran more than six and a half minutes and was inspired by fellow Irish artist William Butler Yeats' 1916 poem "No Second Troy." The simmering, moody track - released ahead of her debut LP, The Lion and the Cobra, in 1987 - was a dramatic, boundary-breaking introduction to the uncompromising singer-songwriter, setting the tone for her career.

 

Her Prince Cover Triumphed on So Many Levels

"Nothing Compares 2 U," the first single from O'Connor's second LP, was a cover of an obscure Prince song originally recorded in 1985 by his group The Family. It immediately went to No. 1 across the world, sending the parent album, 1990's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, to the top, too. The stark video for the stripped-back ballad, featuring a close-up of O'Connor's anguished face, made her an unlikely star.

 

READ MORE: When Sinead O'Connor Tore the Pope's Picture on SNL

 

She Took a Bold Stand on 'Saturday Night Live' ...

A week before the 1992 release of her third album, Am I Not Your Girl?, O'Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live. During her second song - a cover of Bob Marley's "War" that was added a day earlier - she pulled out a picture of Pope John Paul II, said, "Fight the real enemy" and tore the photo, dropping the pieces to the ground. It was a protest against the Catholic Church, which would later come under fire for child abuse.

 

... And Handled the Backlash With Equal Strength

Less than two weeks after she tore up a photo of the pope on Saturday Night Live, O'Connor appeared at Bob Dylan's 30th-anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden to perform his 1979 song "I Believe in You." The audience began booing not long after Kris Kristofferson introduced her. After a couple of tries to start the song, O'Connor defiantly sang Marley's "War" and ran offstage to a comforting Kristofferson.

 

She Was Controversial Until Her Death

While O'Connor never reached the heights of I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and "Nothing Compares 2 U," she made records until 2014 and stirred more controversy. She changed her name in 2017 to Magda Davitt as an act of banishing "patriarchal slave names," wrote an unyielding memoir in 2021 and battled emotional crises after her 17-year-old son died by suicide in 2022. She was a scarred fighter until the end.

Jason Kempin, Getty Images
Jason Kempin, Getty Images
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