Today, the world lost a music icon in Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor, who passed away at the age of 56, according to the BBC, and a cause of death has not been given.
Her family provided a statement to The Irish Times, saying how devastated her friends and family are:
“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.”
She released 10 studio albums throughout her career, and of course, her biggest hit and signature song written and composed by Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” became a mega success, and was named the #1 song in the world in 1990 by Billboard.
And she has quite a few connections to country music, too, and was famously very good friends with the legendary singer-songwriter and member of the Highwaymen, Kris Kristofferson.
So much so, that Kris actually wrote a song for her called “Sister Sinead” which he included on his 20th studio album, a fully acoustic project called Closer to the Bone.
Back in 1992, they were both part of Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary concert, where Kris introduced her to a less-than enthusiastic crowd.
This was just a day after Sinéad had ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on live TV during a Saturday Night Live appearance after performing Bob Marley’s “War” as the musical guest, in protest against sexual abuses in Roman Catholic Church, which you can watch here:
Kris introduced her at the Bob Dylan concert as an artist with a name that was “synonymous with courage and integrity,” though the audience didn’t seem to have the same perspective:
“Alright, I gotta tell you, I’m real proud to introduce this next artist, whose name has become synonymous with courage and integrity. Ladies and gentlemen, Sinead O’Conner.”
As soon as she takes the stage, you can hear the crowd absolutely not having it and booing her, and Kris later said in an interview that a stage manager came up to him as that was all happening and told him to go get her off stage.
He wasn’t having any of it, and in fact, says he was “pissed” at the entire situation, adding that he believed she had “good intentions” for doing what she did and was simply misunderstood by the masses:
“A stage manager came up to me because I was one of the emcee’s and said, ‘Get her off the stage.’ I was so pissed off…
I wasn’t about to tell her to get off the stage so I walked out and said to her, ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down”, and she replied, ‘I’m not down.’
She’s such a good example of good intentions that just get you into trouble. She’s talking about human rights, and she’s not a bad guy; the bad guys are the guys who are against human rights.”
In the video below, you can see her trying to keep it together when he walks out, as Kris whispers in her ear before she can even sing a note:
“Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
That line is reference to a song on his own 1990 album Third World Warrior, which included a track called “Don’t Let the Bastards (Get You Down).”
Sinéad was initially supposed to sing a Bob Dylan song, as this show was obviously a tribute to Bob Dylan and his musical career, but since she couldn’t even start singing because of the crowd’s noise and waited so long, she eventually switched it up and doubled down on her previous gesture, singing (or more so, shouting) the lyrics to “War” once again.
Later on in the evening, Kris delivered a rendition of Bob’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” but his performance never made it onto the concert DVD. You can probably figure out why…
You can watch the full, uncut clip of Sinead’s performance here, where Kris comes to get her at the end of the song and almost carries her off stage, as she seemingly starts crying when he embraces her:
In Kris’ song “Sister Sinead,” he sings a lyric about that “bald-headed brave little girl,” which is a reference to Sinead’s famously bald head.
She regularly shaved her hair as a statement against the superficialities of the record industry, and clearly was not one to be intimidated or told what to think by anybody, even if she was the only one who felt that way.
And regardless of whether or not you agree with her politics, it’s hard not to respect that kind of conviction.
Around the 3:38 mark in the video below, you can also see what is rumored to be a less-than-thrilled Willie Nelson, who was also upset with the situation, introduce the next artist Neil Young, trying to salvage what little was left of the show at this point:
Sinead was later interviewed by an Italian weekly newspaper called Vita, and actually publicly asked the Pope to forgive her.
She called tearing up the photo “a ridiculous act, the gesture of a girl rebel,” and says she did it “because I was in rebellion against the faith, but I was still within the faith.”
Though, when asked if she would change anything about her SNL appearance, she stood by it, saying:
And ahead of the Bob Dylan anniversary concert, Willie had also asked Sinead to collaborate with him on a cover of “Don’t Give Up,” which he still wanted her to do even after she was basically booed off stage.
He later included their duet on his 40th studio album Across the Borderline in 1993:
Also around this time in the early 90’s, Kris and Sinead teamed up to sing his all-time country classic “Help Me Make It Through The Night” on various TV shows in Europe, where he often reiterated his support for Sinéad.
Again, you don’t have to agree with their politics or stances on matters of the 90’s, but to oversimplify it and put it plainly, I think we all hope to have a friend like Kris Kristofferson was to Sinéad O’Connor.
They just don’t make friendships like this anymore, so it seems:
Kris Kristofferson Is Far More Than Just A Legendary Country Music Artist
If I was to blindly give you the following resume that someone racked up by the age of 30, what career do you think its owner would have chosen?
Rhodes Scholar, award winning essayist, three sport letterman in college, Golden Gloves boxer, cadet commander of ROTC, sports editor of a newspaper, helicopter pilot, Army Ranger, dredging contractor, and even… janitor.
Truthfully, the list would be endless, as they could have pursued any number of careers, including professional athlete, ranking military officer, journalist, novelist, corporate executive, heck it’s almost not worth trying to figure out all the possibilities that come with being a Rhodes scholar alone.
But what about country music singer?
As strange as it may seem, that’s exactly what the person in question chose to do with his life, leaving all of those opportunities, including an offer to teach at West Point, to chase a dream.
Kris Kristofferson is truly a once in a lifetime character whose elaborate backstory adds to the already enormous legacy he built in the country music world.
Born to a military family in 1936, his first dream in life was to be a writer, which seems like it would have been a viable path, as two of his earliest stories, “The Rock” and “Gone Are The Days” won some awards are were published in prestigious The Atlantic Monthly.
After graduating high school, he enrolled at Pomona College to further pursue his writing aspirations. There he racked up a ton of achievements, including membership in the senior honor society, Cadet Commander of the school’s ROTC program, sports editor of the school newspaper, excellence in three varsity sports (football, rugby, and track and field), became a Golden Gloves boxer, and as a very big cherry on top, was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, one of just 32 American’s invited to study at the iconic Oxford University in England that year.
Certainly makes my college resume look pretty puny…
He continued his pursuit of excellence while at Oxford, earning a “Blue” in boxing (the highest athletic honor one can achieve), continued his rugby career, and began writing songs. He graduated in 1960 with a Bachelors in Philosophy.
But he didn’t rest upon leaving Oxford.
He felt pressure from his family to continue their tradition of military service, so he joined the US Army, where he eventually earned the rank of captain. During his time, he became a helicopter pilot and completed one of the hardest programs in the entire military, Ranger School. He was then stationed in West Germany, where he formed a band.
Despite the incredible success he had in the military, he never quite felt at home. After his deployment, he was offered a teaching job at West Point (yet another phenomenal opportunity), but turned it down to chase what he now knew his passion was: Music.
He moved to Nashville, TN in 1965, a move that caused his family to disown him and it’s not clear if they ever fully reconciled.
He took a job as a janitor at Columbia Recording Studios, where he happened to met June Carter and gave her a demo tape to give her husband, Johnny Cash. While nothing came of it at first, we know that Johnny eventually refused to record until Kris was allowed to sit in on the session, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What a life Kris lived.
Just goes to show you, no matter what other skills and talents a person may have, they don’t mean a thing unless you have the passion to back it up.
While it certainly was risky to throw away all he had earned before that, safe to say, he made the right decision.