It was the summer of ’97, a warm and beautiful evening. As an A&R employee at Warner Music, I was driving to a gig in west London when I spotted Sinéad O’Connor outside a pub with friends. Our eyes met, and she waved at me. Although we had met briefly before, this was the first time we truly connected. I joined her and her friends at the pub, and it was like we had known each other for years. Sinéad’s warmth and kindness instantly captivated me. We spent the entire night talking on her sofa, and before we knew it, we were falling in love.
During our time together, we rarely discussed her music. She did, however, express her pride in her rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” and even played it for me. But beyond that, our conversations revolved around topics like Abba, our favorite music from our teenage years, and the early Smiths gigs in Manchester.
What stood out about Sinéad was that she never seemed like a typical rock star. Even when the paparazzi chased us down the streets of Westbourne Grove during our morning coffee runs, it felt more comical than anything else. She had a way of downplaying it all, laughing it off with a hint of embarrassment.
Sinéad invited me to Majorca, where her friend Lynne Franks had a place. We had a wonderful time, and one day, we found ourselves at Howard Marks’s house, enjoying each other’s company and the soothing sound of Howard’s voice. Our adventures continued as I introduced her to Jamaican musicians Sly and Robbie when I was working on a record with them. I even brought Sly and Robbie to her house for tea when they were in London. The joy on Sinéad’s face was unforgettable.
During our year together, Sinéad limited her work commitments. I remember a low-key show in Ireland and being on set with her for Neil Jordan’s film, The Butcher Boy. She effortlessly portrayed a vision and shared a scene with a young boy in one take. I also recall her preparing for a potential role as Joan of Arc in Luc Besson’s The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.
Sinéad had a deep love for the comedy series Father Ted. We would have Friday nights dedicated to watching the show, enjoying takeaway curry, cold beers, and an assortment of chocolate and sweets. One episode, featuring Clare Grogan as a feminist singer, even playfully referenced Sinéad herself, and she absolutely loved it.
Our relationship didn’t have a dramatic ending. Sinéad eventually moved back to Ireland the following summer, and we simply drifted apart. Both of us had taken a break from our careers for that year, and we had to return to the real world.
When I learned about the news of Sinéad, I was amazed at the immense media coverage. Sky News even played the complete music video for “Nothing Compares 2 U,” uninterrupted. It felt surreal because “rock star Sinéad” wasn’t how I saw her. Yet, it was important for her influence and significance to be acknowledged. In a single act on live television, she was prepared to sacrifice her own American career on principle. Artists like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple owe a debt of gratitude to Sinéad for paving the way.
The next morning, I heard her song “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” on the radio:
I am stretched on your grave
And I’ll lie here forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure they would not sever
My apple tree, my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather
Outside, torrential rain poured down, an unusual sight for July. It almost felt as though the heavens themselves were mourning.
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