O'Connor was born in Glenageary, County Dublin on 8 December 1966. She was named Sinéad after Sinéad de Valera, the wife of Irish President Éamon de Valera, Marie after the mother of the doctor presiding over the delivery, and Bernadette in honour of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. She is the third of five children; her siblings are novelist Joseph, Eimear, John, and Eoin.
Shuhada Sadaqat (born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor on 8 December 1966 ) is an Irish singer-songwriter. Her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, was released in 1987 and charted internationally. Her single "Nothing Compares 2 U" was released in 1990 and named the number one world single for the same year by the Billboard Music Awards.
Her parents are Sean O'Connor, a structural engineer later turned barrister and chairperson of the Divorce Action Group, and Marie O'Connor. In 1979 O'Connor left her mother and went to live with her father and his new wife. At the age of 15, her shoplifting and truancy led to her being placed for eighteen months in a Magdalene asylum, the Grianán Training Centre run by the Order of Our Lady of Charity. In some ways, she thrived there, especially in the development of her writing and music, but she also chafed under the imposed conformity. Unruly students there were sometimes sent to sleep in the adjoining nursing home, an experience of which she later commented, "I have never—and probably will never—experience such panic and terror and agony over anything."
O'Connor's mother Marie died in an car accident in 1986, when O'Connor was nineteen.
Her first album The Lion and the Cobra was "a sensation" when it was released in 1987 on Chrysalis Records, and it reached gold record status, earning a Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy nomination. The single "Mandinka" was a big college radio hit in the United States, and "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" received both college and urban play in a remixed form that featured rapper MC Lyte. In her first US network television appearance, O'Connor sang "Mandinka" on Late Night with David Letterman in 1988. The single "Troy" was also released as a single in the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands, where it reached number 5 on the Dutch Top 40 chart.
She had her first son, Jake, with her first husband, music producer John Reynolds, who co-produced several of her albums, including Universal Mother. Reynolds and O'Connor married in 1987. Soon after the birth of her daughter Roisin in 1995, O'Connor and the girl's father, Irish journalist John Waters, began a long custody battle that ended with O'Connor agreeing to let Roisin live in Dublin with Waters. In 1991, O'Connor had an abortion after things did not work out with the father. She later wrote the song "My Special Child" about the experience.
O'Connor named Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Pretenders as the artists who influenced her on her debut album. In 1989 O'Connor joined The The frontman Matt Johnson as a guest vocalist on the band's album Mind Bomb, which spawned the duet "Kingdom of Rain".
Also in 1990, she was criticised after she stated that she would not perform if the United States national anthem was played before one of her concerts. Frank Sinatra threatened to "kick her in the ass". After receiving four Grammy Award nominations, she withdrew her name from consideration. Although nominated for the Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist (which she won) she did not attend the awards ceremony, but did accept the Irish IRMA in February 1991.
Hank Shocklee, producer for Public Enemy, remixed the album's next single, "The Emperor's New Clothes", for a 12-inch that was coupled with the Celtic funk of "I Am Stretched on Your Grave". Pre-dating but included on I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was also "Jump in the River", which originally appeared on the Married to the Mob soundtrack; the 12-inch version of the single had included a remix featuring performance artist Karen Finley. Also in 1990, O'Connor starred in a small independent Irish movie Hush-a-Bye Baby directed in Derry by Margo Harkin.
In 1990, she contributed a cover of "You Do Something to Me" to the Cole Porter tribute/AIDS fundraising album Red Hot + Blue produced by the Red Hot Organization. Red Hot + Blue was followed by the release of Am I Not Your Girl?, an album of standards and torch songs that she had listened to while growing up. The album received mixed-to-poor reviews, and was a commercial disappointment in light of the success of her previous work.
In 1990, she joined many other guests for former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters' massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. (In 1996, she would guest on Broken China, a solo album by Richard Wright of Pink Floyd.) In 1991, her take on Elton John's "Sacrifice" was acclaimed as one of the best efforts on the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.
NME, March 1991
In November 1991, a year prior to the incident, O'Connor had told Spin magazine:
Also in 1992, she contributed backing vocals on the track "Come Talk To Me", and shared vocals on the single "Blood of Eden" from the studio album Us by Peter Gabriel.
On 3 October 1992, O'Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest. She sang an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War", which she intended as a protest against sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, referring to child abuse rather than racism. She then presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera while singing the word "evil", after which she tore the photo into pieces, said "Fight the real enemy", and threw the pieces towards the camera. The incident occurred nine years before John Paul II acknowledged the sexual abuse within the Church.
She spent the following months studying Bel canto singing with teacher Frank Merriman at the Parnell School of Music. In an interview with The Guardian published 3 May 1993 she reported that her singing lessons with Merriman were the only therapy she was receiving, describing Merriman as "the most amazing teacher in the universe."
In June 1993, O'Connor wrote a public letter in The Irish Times which asked people to "stop hurting" her: "If only I can fight off the voices of my parents / and gather a sense of self-esteem / Then I'll be able to REALLY sing ..." The letter repeated accusations of abuse by her parents as a child which O'Connor had made in interviews. Her brother Joseph defended their father to the newspaper but agreed regarding their mother's "extreme and violent abuse, both emotional and physical". O'Connor said that month, "Our family is very messed up. We can't communicate with each other. We are all in agony. I for one am in agony."
In 1994, she appeared in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, also known as Daltrey Sings Townshend. This was a two-night concert at Carnegie Hall produced by Roger Daltrey of The Who in celebration of his 50th birthday. A CD and a VHS video of the concert were issued in 1994, followed by a DVD in 1998.
The more conventional Universal Mother (1994) did not succeed in restoring her mass appeal; however the music videos for the first and second singles, "Fire on Babylon" and "Famine", were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. She toured with Lollapalooza in 1995, but dropped out when she became pregnant. The Gospel Oak EP followed in 1997, and featured songs based in an acoustic setting.
In January 1995, O'Connor made an appearance on the British late-night television program After Dark during an episode about sexual abuse and the Catholic church in Ireland. The discussion included a Dominican friar and another representative of the Catholic church, along with former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. Host Helena Kennedy described the event:
She appeared in Neil Jordan's The Butcher Boy in 1997, playing the Virgin Mary.
In 1998, she worked again with the Red Hot Organization to co-produce and perform on Red Hot + Rhapsody.
On a 4 October 2007, broadcast of The Oprah Winfrey Show, O'Connor disclosed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder four years earlier, and had attempted suicide on her 33rd birthday on 8 December 1999. Then, on Oprah: Where Are They Now? of 9 February 2014, O'Connor said that she had received three "second opinions" and was told by all three that she was not bipolar.
Faith and Courage was released in 2000, including the single "No Man's Woman", and featured contributions from Wyclef Jean of the Fugees and Dave Stewart of Eurythmics.
In a July 2007 interview with Christianity Today, O'Connor stated that she considers herself a Christian and that she believes in core Christian concepts about the Trinity and Jesus Christ. She said, "I think God saves everybody whether they want to be saved or not. So when we die, we’re all going home... I don't think God judges anybody. He loves everybody equally." In an October 2002 interview, she credited her Christian faith in giving her the strength to live through and overcome the effects of her child abuse.
In 2003, she contributed a track to the Dolly Parton tribute album Just Because I'm a Woman, a cover of Parton's "Dagger Through the Heart". That same year, she also featured on three songs of Massive Attack's album 100th Window before releasing her double album, She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty. This compilation contained one disc of demos and previously unreleased tracks and one disc of a live concert recording. Directly after the album's release, O'Connor announced that she was retiring from music. Collaborations, a compilation album of guest appearances, was released in 2005—featuring tracks recorded with Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack, Jah Wobble, Terry Hall, Moby, Bomb The Bass, The Edge, U2, and The The.
In a 2000 interview in Curve, O'Connor commented, "I'm a dyke... although I haven't been very open about that and throughout most of my life I've gone out with blokes because I haven't necessarily been terribly comfortable about being a big lesbian mule. But I actually am a dyke." However, soon after in an interview in The Independent, she stated, "I believe it was overcompensating of me to declare myself a lesbian. It was not a publicity stunt. I was trying to make someone else feel better. And have subsequently caused pain for myself. I am not in a box of any description." In a magazine article and in a programme on RTÉ (Ryan Confidential, broadcast on RTÉ on 29 May 2003), she stated that while most of her sexual relationships had been with men, she has had three relationships with women.
In mid-2001, O'Connor married British journalist Nick Sommerlad; the marriage ended in 2004. She had her third child, son Shane, in 2004 with musician Donal Lunny. In 2006, she had her fourth child, Yeshua Francis Neil Bonadio, whose father is Frank Bonadio.
On 8 November 2006, O'Connor performed seven songs from her upcoming album Theology at The Sugar Club in Dublin. Thirty fans were given the opportunity to win pairs of tickets to attend along with music industry critics. The performance was released in 2008 as Live at the Sugar Club deluxe CD/DVD package sold exclusively on her website.
O'Connor released two songs from her album Theology to download for free from her official website: "If You Had a Vineyard" and "Jeremiah (Something Beautiful)". The album, a collection of covered and original Rastafari spiritual songs, was released in June 2007. The first single from the album, the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber classic "I Don't Know How to Love Him", was released on 30 April 2007. To promote the album, O'Connor toured extensively in Europe and North America. She also appeared on two tracks of the new Ian Brown album The World Is Yours, including the anti-war single "Illegal Attacks".
In January 2010, O'Connor performed a duet with R&B singer Mary J. Blige produced by former A Tribe Called Quest member Ali Shaheed Muhammad of O'Connor's song "This Is To Mother You" (first recorded by O'Connor on her 1997 Gospel Oak EP). The proceeds of the song's sales were donated to the organisation GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services). In 2012 the song "Lay Your Head Down", written by Brian Byrne and Glenn Close for the soundtrack of the film Albert Nobbs and performed by O'Connor, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
On 26 March 2010, O'Connor appeared on Anderson Cooper 360° to speak out about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Ireland. On 28 March 2010, she had an opinion piece published in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post in which she wrote about the scandal and her time in a Magdalene laundry as a teenager. Writing for the Sunday Independent she labelled the Vatican as "a nest of devils" and called for the establishment of an "alternative church", opining that "Christ is being murdered by liars" in the Vatican. Shortly after the election of Pope Francis she described the office of the Pope as an "anti-Christian office."
O'Connor was married a third time on 22 July 2010, to longtime friend and collaborator Steve Cooney, and in late March 2011, made the decision to separate.
In 2011, O'Connor worked on recording a new album, titled Home, to be released in the beginning of 2012, titled How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?, with the first single being "The Wolf is Getting Married". She planned an extensive tour in support of the album but suffered a serious breakdown between December 2011 and March 2012, resulting in the tour and all other musical activities for the rest of 2012 being cancelled. O'Connor resumed touring in 2013 with The Crazy Baldhead Tour. The second single "4th and Vine" was released on 18 February 2013.
Her fourth marriage was to Irish therapist Barry Herridge. They wed on 9 December 2011, in Las Vegas, but their marriage ended after having "lived together for 7 days only". The following week, on 3 January 2012, O'Connor issued a further string of internet comments to the effect that the couple had re-united.
On 7 January 2022, two days after her 17-year-old son Shane was reported missing from Newbridge, County Kildare, he was found dead at Bray, County Wicklow, by Irish police. O’Connor stated that her son, custody of whom she lost in 2013, had been on "suicide watch" at Tallaght Hospital, and had "ended his earthly struggle". O'Connor harshly criticised Ireland's family services agency, Tusla, and the national health authority, the HSE, with regard to their handling of her son's case.
O'Connor published an open letter, on her own website, to American singer and actress Miley Cyrus on 2 October 2013 in which she warned Cyrus of the treatment of women in the music industry and the role that sexuality plays in this context, which was in response to Cyrus' music video for her song "Wrecking Ball". O'Connor stated:
In February 2014, it was revealed that O'Connor had been recording a new album of original material, titled The Vishnu Room, consisting of romantic love songs. In early June 2014, it O'Connor's new album was retitled I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss, with an 11 August release date. The title derives from the Ban Bossy campaign that took place earlier the same year. The album's first single is entitled "Take Me to Church".
In November 2014, O'Connor's management was taken over by Simon Napier-Bell and Björn de Water. On 15 November, O'Connor joined the charity supergroup Band Aid 30 along with other British and Irish pop acts, recording a new version of the track "Do They Know It's Christmas?" at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, to raise money for the West African Ebola virus epidemic.
Speaking about her relationship with Prince in an interview with Norwegian station NRK in November 2014 she said, "I did meet him a couple of times. We didn't get on at all. In fact we had a punch-up." She continued: "He summoned me to his house after 'Nothing Compares 2U'. I made it without him. I’d never met him. He summoned me to his house – and it's foolish to do this to an Irish woman – he said he didn't like me saying bad words in interviews. So I told him to fuck off....He got quite violent. I had to escape out of his house at 5 in the morning. He packed a bigger punch than mine." In a 2004 interview with Graham Norton, O'Connor claimed that the story was "much exaggerated by the press" and referred to him as "a sweet guy". In her 2021 memoir Rememberings, O'Connor described her meeting with Prince in detail, which ranged from having his butler serve soup repeatedly despite no desire for soup to hitting her with a hard object placed in a pillowcase after wanting a pillow fight to stalking her with his car after she left the mansion.
O'Connor is a vocal supporter of a united Ireland, and called on the left-wing republican Sinn Féin party to be "braver". In December 2014 it was reported O'Connor had joined Sinn Féin. O'Connor has called for the "demolition" of the Irish Republic and its replacement with a new, united country. She has also called for key Sinn Féin politicians like Gerry Adams to step down because "they remind people of violence", referring to the Troubles.
On 18 July 2015, her first grandson was born to her son Jake Reynolds and his girlfriend Lia.
In August 2015, she announced that she was to undergo a hysterectomy after suffering with gynaecological problems for over three years. O'Connor would later blame the hospital's refusal to administer hormonal replacement therapy after the operation as the main reason for her mental health issues in the subsequent years, stating "I was flung into surgical menopause. Hormones were everywhere. I became very suicidal. I was a basket case."
Having smoked cannabis for 30 years, O'Connor went to a rehabilitation center in 2016, to end her addiction. O'Connor is an agoraphobic.
In a 2015 interview with the BBC, O'Connor wished that Ireland had remained under British rule (which ended after the Irish War of Independence, except for Northern Ireland), because the church took over the country instead. Following the Brexit referendum in 2016, O'Connor wrote on Facebook "Ireland is officially no longer owned by Britain".
In 2017, O'Connor changed her name to Magda Davitt. After converting to Islam in 2018, she changed it to Shuhada' Sadaqat (Arabic: شهداء صدقات). However, she continues to record and perform under her birth name.
In 2017, she changed her legal name to Magda Davitt, saying in an interview that she wished to be "free of the patriarchal slave names. Free of the parental curses." On her conversion to Islam in October 2018, she adopted the name Shuhada, and before mid-2019 also changed her surname from Davitt to Sadaqat.
In August 2017, O'Connor posted a 12-minute video on her Facebook page in which she stated that she has felt alone since losing custody of her 13-year-old son, Shane, that for the prior two years she had wanted to kill herself, with only her doctor and psychiatrist "keeping her alive". The month after her Facebook post, O'Connor appeared on the American television talk show Dr. Phil on the show's 16th season debut episode. According to Dr. Phil, O'Connor wanted to do the interview because she wanted to "destigmatize mental illness," noting the prevalence of mental health issues among musicians. Shane died in January 2022. A week later, following a series of tweets in which she indicated that she was going to kill herself, O'Connor was hospitalised.
In August 2018, via an open letter, she asked Pope Francis to excommunicate her, as she had asked of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.
In October 2018, O'Connor converted to Islam, calling it "the natural conclusion of any intelligent theologian's journey". The ceremony was conducted in Ireland by Sunni Islamic theologian Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri. She also changed her name to Shuhada' Davitt. In a message on Twitter, she thanked fellow Muslims for their support and uploaded a video of herself singing the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer. She also posted photos of herself wearing a hijab.
After her conversion to Islam, O'Connor called those who were not Muslims "disgusting" and criticised Christian and Jewish theologians on Twitter in November 2018. She wrote: "What I'm about to say is something so racist I never thought my soul could ever feel it. But truly I never wanna spend time with white people again (if that's what non-muslims are called). Not for one moment, for any reason. They are disgusting."
Later that month, O'Connor stated that her remarks were made in an attempt to force Twitter to close down her account. In September 2019, she apologised for the remarks, saying "They were not true at the time and they are not true now. I was triggered as a result of islamophobia dumped on me. I apologize for hurt caused. That was one of many crazy tweets lord knows."
O'Connor's memoir, Rememberings, was published in June 2021.
On 4 June 2021, O'Connor announced her immediate retirement from the music industry. While her final studio album, No Veteran Dies Alone, is due to be released in 2022, O'Connor stated that she would not be touring or promoting it. Announcing the news on Twitter, she said "This is to announce my retirement from touring and from working in the record business. I've gotten older and I'm tired. So it's time for me to hang up my nipple tassels, having truly given my all. NVDA in 2022 will be my last release. And there'll be no more touring or promo." Later, on 7 June, she retracted this statement, describing the original announcement as "a knee-jerk reaction" to an insensitive interview, and that she would be doing her already scheduled 2022 tour.
In January 2022 a week after the suicide of her 17 year old son Shane, she herself was then hospitalized on her own volition following a series of tweets in which she indicated she was going to take her own life.
Ultimately, after a brief period of inactivity and a bout with fibromyalgia, her retirement proved to be short-lived. O'Connor stated in an interview with Harp magazine that she had only intended to retire from making mainstream pop/rock music, and after dealing with her fibromyalgia she chose to move into other musical styles. The reggae album Throw Down Your Arms appeared in late 2005.