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The renegade singer who stuck it to the suits

O’Connor at Glastonbury in 1991. Martyn Goodacre/Getty

Sinéad O’Connor was the ultimate nonconformist, says Suzanne Moore on Substack. When she was 21, and her manager ordered her to “wear make-up and dress in a more feminine way” to promote her first album, she went home and shaved her hair off. She fell pregnant the same year, and ignored record company bigwigs who “tried their damnedest” to get her to have an abortion. With a “hit album and a tiny baby”, she was invited to perform at the 1989 Grammys. She came on stage in ripped jeans, a black halter-neck and Dr Martens, with her son’s babygrow tied around her waist. “A middle finger to her record company, if ever there was one.”

In 1992, she “effectively nuked her career” by performing a track about child abuse in the Catholic Church, before tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II. “The Washington Times called her ‘the pure face of hatred’; Joe Pesci said he wanted to give her a smack; Madonna took the piss out of her.” O’Connor continued aggravating the public and stars alike, in particular by refusing to have The Star-Spangled Banner played before her concerts, as per tradition. Frank Sinatra weighed in, saying he wished he could meet her so “he could kick her ass”. She later joked that her father in Dublin wouldn’t be best pleased if she had been forced “to beat the crap out of Ol’ Blue Eyes”.