Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Sinead O'Connor Swims to the Siren

Well, it’s that time, yet again: time to eulogize another GenX icon. In this case, the extremely-troubled late 80s/early 90s alt.rock It Girl, Sinead O’Connor. 

Damn - how many is this now? I've lost count. 

Sadly, Sinead had all but announced her departure on social media, having been in a devastating state of mourning following the suicide death of her son, Shane.

Sinead O’Connor Expressed Sadness Over Her Son’s Suicide Just 9 Days Before Her Own Death

Sinead O’Connor continued to grieve the death of her son Shane in a social media post just days before her own tragic death. 
When she died, Sinead O’Connor was still deeply entrenched in grief over the loss of her son Shane, who died by suicide at 17 in January of 2022. The globally celebrated singer, who died July 26, took to social media in the days leading up to her own death to pour out her heart. 
“Been living as undead night creature since,” she wrote via Twitter on July 17. “He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally. I am lost in the bardo without him.” Sinead’s account has since been deleted, but the tweet may have been the bellwether of more tragedy to come for the family.  
On Wednesday, July 26, Sinead’s family released a heartbreaking statement mourning the death of the 90s megastar. “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved SinĂ©ad,” they wrote, per The Irish Times. “Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.” 
Sinead, who had three other children across two other relationships, struggled with her grief in the months following Shane’s death. “I’ve decided to follow my son,” she wrote via Twitter just a week after his death. “There is no point living without him. Everything I touch, I ruin. I only stayed for him. And now he’s gone.” 
Per CNN, she was hospitalized, tweeting again shortly after that she was already “on way to [the] hospital. I’m sorry I upset everyone. I am lost without my kid, and I hate myself. Hospital will help a while. But I’m going to find Shane. This is just a delay.”

As awful as it is - losing a child is every parent’s very worst nightmare - one can only wonder what Sinead’s other children feel about this. But I’d imagine they were used to her troubles and travails, and may have made their peace with her demise long before the fact.

I wasn’t as smitten by Sinead as my friends were back when The Lion and the Cobra was released, probably since I couldn’t reconcile her butch/skinhead look with her very-conventional New Wave dance rock (on her first album) and her Kate Bush-lite sound (on her second). But also because she made me uncomfortable, and not in the way some ideologues would wish.

Sinead certainly was an extremely beautiful girl - sweet, petite and boasting that dark, doe-eyed, pixie-type look I’ve always been partial to - but her obvious psychic distress was off-putting to me, even more than her severe haircut (which, admittedly, only accentuated those hypnotic, Manga-sized eyes). 

Her inner pain was just too raw, too exposed, too consuming, too familiar.

In hindsight, she also seems like an unfortunate harbinger of the Fourth-Wave Feminist nightmares to come. But with Sinead, it was clearly a desperate cry for help, rather than succumbing to corporate-concocted social contagion.

It was obvious to me that someone did a number on Sinead when she was young, something that’s all too common with female singers. It later emerged that her mother was extremely abusive to her children, especially Sinead. Which may have set her up for abuse outside the home, which she may not have been comfortable copping to, as often happens. There was certainly enough of it to go around in Ireland at the time.

I hate to say it, but I saw families like what Sinead describes growing up in Braintree. Her mother was clearly severely mentally-ill at a time and a place where such things were simply not discussed. She did damage to her daughter that may have driven her need to prove herself, yet also planted the seeds of self-destruction.

Someone told me earlier that Cathy O'Brien had named Sinead as an MKULTRA (or perhaps MKU-adjacent) victim, which I have to admit wouldn't surprise me, given when and where she grew up. These programs seemed particularly interested in gifted children, particularly girls, and often girls with musical talent. 

But given what she's said about her mother, it's not necessary to explain the tragic arc of her life (though it must be said a lot of people survive and thrive after much worse). That said, government mischief going on at school or wherever would not be at all out of the question.

Maybe some of the outside-the-home abuse Sinead was hesitant to share finally exploded on national television when she ripped up a picture of the Pope, killing her career in its tracks right then and there. This was a very long time before the truth about clerical abuse - which bishops and Church Fathers had been contending with since Roman times - ever hit the papers. 

Needless to say, condemnation was swift, brutal and nearly universal, even from such self-declared "transgressive artists" like Prince and Madonna. But for me, it also points to other potential offenders in her young life.

Either way, History now reveals that Sinead was a prophetess in this regard, and, unfortunately, suffered the fate of one.

Sinead’s GenX moxie came out when she bravely stared down an arena full of booing fans at a Bob Dylan tribute at Madison Square Garden, not long after the SNL fiasco. She waited until she was off main camera to crumble (it was preserved for posterity nonetheless). 

Kris Kristofferson wrapped himself around the tiny chanteuse to shield her as she burst into tears, forever placing Kris Kristofferson in the “definite stand-up dude” drawer of my mental filing cabinet.

Note: I can’t seem to find video of it at the moment, but I remember one of the local NYC news stations spotted Sinead in disguise at a protest against her somewhere, which I must admit was pretty ballsy. Also, GenX as eff.

The singer's travails didn’t seem to trouble the music industry much, since they already had a Sinead-lite waiting in the wings. Sadly, Dolores O'Riordan too would be damaged by childhood abuse and leave this world at far too young an age. 

Seems to be a pattern, does it not. Note that's not a question.

Sinead would struggle thereafter even to be heard, despite making music that was often far more interesting than her hit records had been. But note that her first post-controversy single was released perhaps as an explanation of why she’d been so angry and confrontational during her fifteen minutes of fame. 

As well as giving peak-pretty Winona a run for her money in the bargain. Damn.

Sinead also lent her talents to other people’s projects (such as Massive Attack, of course), my favorite being her vocals on this track. 

Jah Wobble was an East London Cockney brawler and an OG punk who went on to play in Public Image Ltd, before succumbing to years of heroin abuse. He embraced 90s-vintage New Age spirituality as a way to pull himself out of the morass, something that surely appealed to Sinead as well. She’d go on to cycle through a number of different spiritual modes, ending up as a Muslim. 

She obviously never found much peace, though.

Of course, Sinead shared much in common with Our Blessed Sibyl - too much, sadly - who had deeply influenced the Irish chanteuse, and in many ways, created the template for her. The Sibyl also experienced severe distress in her childhood, including sexual abuse by men in her family and being stabbed by one of her sisters before she finally ran away from home at age 14. And as I suspect with Sinead, likely far more than that. 

Perhaps the difference with the Sibyl is that she was gifted with men who would shield her from the horrific predations far too many talented young women experience in show business. By contrast, Sinead always seemed painfully alone, whatever her actual domestic situation happened to be. 

Sadly, the only time the two troubled divas ended up on the same record was for Peter Gabriel’s Peace Together project (that video up there), featuring the distinctive basslines of the aforementioned Jah Wobble. We could have used more where that came from, but the two also seemed to emotionally unravel around the same time, which raises all kinds of disturbing questions. 

The two Celtic survivors also sang this classic Irish ghost ballad, lending us an opportunity to compare their contrasting approaches with the haunting melody. You can practically feel the fog rising from the peat, no?

Please note that The Sibyl is accompanied by The Insects, who composed the classic "Karmacoma" track on Massive Attack's Protection album, as well as scoring the Hanna and Devs TV series. Of this men shall know nothing.

And it seems that Sinead’s last gift to the world was singing the opening theme to Outlander, which is about, um, Clan Fraser. Would you expect anything else at this point?

Farewell, sweet Sinead. May you find the peace that was stolen from you in this world in the next. 

If you're around Saturday night you might want to join us at the Secret Sun Institute for Advanced Synchromysticism. We're going to be have a double-feature livestream, deep diving into the mind-shredding insanity of The Visitor (1979) as well as the religious propaganda film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 

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