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  • Writer's pictureKristin Kowalski Ferragut

Memories of Sinead O’Connor -- Sleep in Peace

I bet it’s rare to encounter an artist that matches your passion and timeline. I felt that in Sinead O’Connor. I loved her energy and felt a shared world-view. I loved how she spoke to my heart and often seemed to speak from my heart. I shed more than one tear for her passing, watering the ground to which we all return, but mostly feel grateful that we shared the same time on earth and that her music and spirit has been there for me and others, comforting and challenging, for most of my life.

The Lion and the Cobra (1987) is a powerful, mighty cry of loss and self-discovery, with songs like “Jackie,” “Drink Before the War” and “Troy.” I’m visiting these songs between writing. They make me feel more in moments than I feel in a week of day-to-days. What great art can do! Sinead O'Connor - Troy (Official Music Video)

I can’t imagine counting how many times I’ve listened to I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990), which included the hit, “Nothing Compares to You.” Picture this — Riding down a dark I-4 from Daytona to Orlando on a hot summer night to hit the “Old EA” (Electric Avenue Club) when my friend who’s driving hits an armadillo. She’s upset and we can’t just keep traveling on without ceremony. The road’s deserted so she lays flat in the middle of the highway and we sing “Nothing Compares to You [Armadillo}” before finding the strength to move on. That’s one of a zillion moments songs on that album came to my aid. My stand out song seems to be “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which I’ve probably sung monthly, if not weekly, for the past 33 years. The Emperor's New Clothes “ could I possibly know what I want when I was only 21…” 31, 41, 51… See? The song grows with you. With the anthemic lines, “Whatever it may bring / I will live by my own policies / I will sleep with a clear conscience/ I will sleep in peace…” Amen.

“Black Boys on Mopeds,” “Last Day of Our Acquaintance,” “Jump In the River” — every song on I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got speaks to me. But Sinead O’Connor didn’t hang her hat on that success or continue in the same vein. She took risks, explored and expanded. I love that in artists! The constant creativity and reinvention.

I say, “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” often. I just quoted it to a friend a couple of weeks ago, making him laugh. It’s Sinead O’Connor’s version that’s in my mind, not Julie Covington, not Madonna. Don't Cry for Me Argentina off Am I Not Your Girl? (1992). That’s the beauty of living alongside a great artist, her work is part of my narrative, always in my head, like many greats — Alison Moyet, Johnette Napolitano, Ryan Adams, Thomas Anderson, John Doe, David Berman, Martin Gore, Aimee Mann, Morrissey, Dave Alvin…

Let’s take a moment to celebrate those of them that are still with us, including Shane MacGowan, so brilliant! so prolific! I’ve shared the duet of “Haunted” he recorded with Sinead O’Connor in many wonderful moments of my life. Shane MacGowan with Sinead O'Connor - Haunted

My favorite “somebody done somebody wrong song” (nod to B.J. Thomas, 1942-2021) is “Jealous” off of Sinead O’Connor’s Faith and Courage album (2000). Sinead O'Connor - Jealous I think I sang it 12,034 times in the summer of 2018. The thing was, I couldn’t quite hit the “I” in the “I don’t deserve to be lonely…” Ethan, being 10 at the time, and often with me, thus subject to my playlist and singing, was able to stretch his voice to that note. He had no idea the cathartic service he did for his Mama in reaching “I” for me.

I remember young me sitting in the living room watching Saturday Night Live with my very Catholic Dad the night Sinead O’Connor ripped the picture of Pope John Paul II. I was already all on board with her incredible acapella rendition of “War” and my Dad, who was a big Bob Marley fan, was hooked. The tearing of the picture took us both off guard, me moving fast to exaltation; him initially bristling; us both agreeing to uplift her doing what she thought was right.

I’m not reading any articles about Sinead O’Connor. I’ve read some in the past, when she was still present. I mostly loved hearing about her in her words in interviews or extrapolating what I might from her music. I haven’t investigated her cause of death, other than reading the initial “struggles with mental illness.” I guess, I wouldn’t know. Nothing in her reaction to the world as it is, fame, multi-sided attacks, or her compulsion to speak truth and speak out seemed crazy to me. I don’t even know that I care to know how or why she died. Usually, it’s some sort of comfort to understand. In her case, her son died and that seems enough for me. I wasn’t surprised, although I agree with popular opinion that she’s gone too soon.

I’m pasting links to other favorites I’d like to share. I’ll save related stories to reinvent one day in poetry or fiction.

and of course

Sinead O’Connor is here in my present in profound ways, obviously. I’ve spent all night with her music and memories. Whenever somebody I love leaves, I feel the change in the world and there’s no denying sadness in that. But I’ll continue to explore her beautiful songs and find inspiration and comfort in them. I pray that she meets with the best of what lies beyond and rests in peace.

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Thank you for this post on this sad event 💔


Serena Agusto-Cox
Serena Agusto-Cox

Her voice is forever haunting to me. It rips your soul right out.

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