Following the announcement of Sinéad O’Connor’s death aged 56 Wednesday, her life and music with all their complexities and convulsions have been put back into the spotlight.
The Irish singer was known for her pure and crisp voice, paired with exceptional songwriting abilities that evoked her views on politics, spirituality, history and philosophy, but it was the moment when she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live” in October 1992 that has defined public image.
As she reached the end of an acapella version of Bob Marley’s “War,” O’Connor held up a photo of John Paul II while singing the lyrics, “We have confidence in the victory of good over evil,” her crystal-clear voice interrupted only by the sound of paper tearing.
She ripped up the picture, threw the pieces toward the camera, looked straight into its lens and said: “Fight the real enemy,” before taking out her earpiece and walking off the stage, the shards of her protest seemingly piercing the silence in the studio.
At first, the act drew widespread condemnation, but in subsequent years this eventually gave way to admiration as the Catholic Church acknowledged and apologized fo