Musician and activist O’Connor died at her home in London last Wednesday (July 26). She was 56 years old. The cause of death is currently not known, but police said it is not being treated as suspicious.
During a new interview with Rolling Stone, soloist and Boygenius member Bridgers recalled first learning of O’Connor’s music, life and beliefs as a young person. She told the publication that she was “heartbroken” over the news of her death.
“I probably first heard her thanks to my mom, who had – and still has – the coolest music tastes,” Bridgers explained.
“Even before I heard Sinéad’s music, I knew she was a revolutionary. I was obsessed with her and the ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ video.”
She continued: “I even had a very, very short-shaved head in high school. I definitely shaved it for her. I have the worst-shaped head, so there weren’t many people I would have shaved my head for.”
The musician went on to recall how she later “started digging into [O’Connor] and what she stood for”, adding: “[…] Sinéad always believed things that she actually believed, not things she was told to believe by somebody else, even if it was completely subversive.”
Bridgers then singled out ‘Black Boys On Mopeds’, a political song written following the death of the Black British man Colin Roach. Though the lyrics don’t reference Roach directly, the song addresses police brutality, and O’Connor dedicated her album ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’ to his family..
The track, which opens with a line about then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, has previously been covered by Bridgers.
“It’s such a simple recording,” Bridgers said of the original version. “The thing about covering [O’Connor] is that she makes the hardest things to sing sound so easy. I had to practice ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’ so much to even do a for-idiots version of it. Her vocal styling is unlike anything else.”
During her infamous SNL appearance in 1992, O’Connor ripped up a photo of the Pope while covering Bob Marley’s ‘War’, and replaced the song’s lyric “racism” with “child abuse”. She ended the performance by saying “Fight the real enemy”, and would later go on to explain that the move was in protest of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Bridgers told Rolling Stone: “Whether it’s about the famine or the Catholic Church or Margaret Thatcher, history is on her side in a way it wasn’t at the time. People and the media were not nice to her.”
The singer said that O’Connor was “ostracised from so many things”, adding: “It’s such a sad and heartbreaking story. […] She made a huge sacrifice for women and for musicians and for people who believe in things. She was so not rewarded for it.”
Bridgers’ comments echo those of Lily Allen, who said she was “incensed” by some of the “spineless” tributes to O’Connor, suggesting that the same people would not have stood up for O’Connor while she was alive.
Allen added: “It’s also troubling that people have seemingly felt so empathetic towards her but didn’t feel that they could show it or express it for some reason. Until they died. What does that say about us?”
Morrissey, meanwhile, criticised the music industry over the response to O’Connor’s death. The former Smiths frontman argued that some people’s comments were “hypocritical” when they “hadn’t the guts to support her when she was alive and she was looking for you”.