Sinead O’Connor‘s cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but authorities don’t suspect foul play.
London’s Metropolitan Police issued a statement regarding the singer’s death after news broke on Wednesday, July 26, that she passed away at age 56. Officers responded to “reports of an unresponsive woman at a residential address” in the city, where O’Connor was “pronounced dead at the scene.”
A coroner’s report will be prepared to confirm the late musician’s cause of death.
O’Connor’s family addressed their loss in a statement to the Irish news outlet RTE on Wednesday, noting, “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
Tributes to the artist — best known for her cover of Prince’s hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” — immediately poured in from fans around the globe. “Sinéad was a force of nature. A brilliant songwriter & performer whose talent we will not see the like of again,” Tori Amos wrote via social media. “Such passion, such intense presence & a beautiful soul, who battled her own personal demons courageously. Be at peace dear Sinéad, you will forever be in our hearts.”
Country artist Margo Price penned a heartfelt message of her own, tweeting, “I hope Sinéad O’Connor finds the peace she’s been seeking. I’ll never forget watching her rip up a photograph of [the] Pope on SNL in an act of protest against sex abuse in the Catholic Church and thinking, what a badass. Way ahead of her time and gone too soon. 💔.”
Throughout her career, which took off in 1987, O’Connor wasn’t afraid to speak her mind — no matter the response. The 1992 Saturday Night Live appearance referenced by Price remains one of the most provocative performances on the NBC variety show to date.
At the time, O’Connor sang a rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” as an act of protest against the Catholic Church. During the performance, she held up a photo of Pope John Paul II — and ripped it to shreds.
Network execs were given no warning about O’Connor’s stunt, and producer Lorne Michaels ordered the “applause” sign to stay dark in the New York City studio. O’Connor was subsequently banned from appearing on SNL.
In her 2021 memoir, Rememberings, O’Connor shed light on her thought process leading into the performance, revealing that she held up a different image during dress rehearsal. “No one suspects a thing. … [Then] total stunned silence in the audience,” she wrote. “And when I walk backstage, literally not a human being is in sight. All doors have closed. Everyone has vanished. Including my own manager, who locks himself in his room for three days and unplugs his phone.”
O’Connor declared that the incident put her career “back on the right track,” noting, “I wasn’t born to be a pop star. You have to be a good girl for that. … After SNL, I could just be me.”
O’Connor is survived by children Jake, Roisin and Yeshua. Her son Shane died by suicide in January 2022 at age 17.