RIP Sinead O’Connor
Somehow, despite multiple moves, I still have her first album, The Lion and the Cobra, on vinyl. It was one of the first albums I bought when my taste matured beyond asinine pop music, and it remains one of my desert island discs. I won’t pretend that I followed her throughout her career, because I didn’t. But that first album of hers still has my heart.
There was something about her, and that cover, which genuinely awed me when I was young. The juxtaposition between the fierceness she embodied, how delicate her voice was, the range she was able to cover, and the stories she told with her lyrics. I know every word and melody of every song on that album, and listening can easily transport me back to a self I’d rather not remember being. I did not like being a teenager at all, but that makes the album all the more powerful. Emotions take over.
It was 1992, and I was 18 years old, when I shaved my hair off. I didn’t do it because of her, I did it to hide, but the comparisons were always there. I see a fair few young women with shaved hair nowadays, but back then, it was me, Sinéad, and a bunch of dykes. It was good company.
She is a tragedy, really. Was. I’m not sure what the correct verb is as I am listening to her sing as I write. She remains alive, somehow, even though she has passed. When I listened to that album then, when I listen to it now, I find a part of me longing to understand her. A part of me finding everything she represented impossible, even as I sought to be like her, in my own way. Perhaps that is it: she taught me that I should struggle to find my own way. To keep trying, no matter how many times I fall down. And I do. I kept that promise.
I am glad that I could be a young woman when there were women like her on the TV. When women could look like her and be unquestionably women. She represented possibility and courage and I remain grateful to her. She gave me permission to be something and someone other, but to also remain me.
The song below is from her more popular second album, I do not want what I have not got, but it is also one of my favourites. It is from a time when singers wrote words with meaning. What a loss.