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‘A hero of mine’: Russell Crowe pays tribute to Sinead O’Connor

Vale Sinead O'Connor

Actor Russell Crowe has penned a moving tribute to his “hero” Sinead O’Connor and recounted recently bumping into the “amazing woman” in an Irish town.

The death of O’Connor, who was famed for her stirring voice and 1990 chart-topping hit Nothing Compares 2 U, was announced early on Thursday (AEST) .

She was 56.

As tributes poured in from around the world, Crowe took to Twitter to recount the day he inadvertently met O’Connor on a street in suburban Dublin.

“Last year, working in Ireland, having a pint in the cold outside a Dalkey pub with some new friends, a woman with purpose strode past us,” he wrote.

“Puffy parker zipped to the nape and her bowed head covered in a scarf.

“One of my new friends muttered an exclamation, jumped up and pursued the woman.

“Thirty metres down the road the friend and the woman embraced, and he waved me over.

“There under streetlights with mist on my breath, I met Sinéad. She looked in my eyes, and uttered with disarming softness ‘Oh, it’s you Russell’.

“She came with us back to the table and sat in the cold and ordered a hot tea.

“In a conversation without fences we roamed through the recent Dublin heatwave, local politics, American politics, the ongoing fight for indigenous recognition in many places, but particularly in Australia, her warm memory of New Zealand, faith, music, movies and her brother the writer.

“I had the opportunity to tell her she was a hero of mine.

“When her second cup was taking on the night air, she rose, embraced us all and strode away into the fog-dimmed streetlights.

“We sat there the four of us and variously expressed the same thing.

“What an amazing woman.

“Peace be with your courageous heart Sinéad.”

As tributes flowed from around the world, singer Bryan Adams joined in with his own memories of O’Connor. He said he had loved the time he’d spent “working with you making photos, doing gigs in Ireland together and chats”.

The 1980s band UB40 wrote of their sadness at the news.

“So often troubled, always courageous, outspoken and controversial. She was an icon,” the group wrote on Twitter.

O’Connor died 18 months after losing her teenage son Shane, 17, who took his life in January 2022.

In one of her last social media posts, the troubled singer wrote of her ongoing anguish at the loss.

“Been living as undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul,” she wrote on Twitter on July 17.

“We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally. I am lost in the bardo without him.”

Sinead O’Connor had a punk spirit and was active on issues she cared about. Photo: Getty

O’Connor crashed onto the global music scene in the 1990s with her mesmerising version of Nothing Compares 2 U and its stirring music video in which she faced directly into the camera and cried.

She was also an activist and her criticisms of Catholicism were especially controversial in parts of Ireland but also a brave representation of a shift that was taking shape in society away from the Church, whose deep influence began to collapse later that decade over a string of clerical child sex abuse scandals.

After O’Connor’s death was announced, the Irish national radio broadcaster’s regular evening music show exclusively played her songs and read out tributes from listeners.

“To those of us who had the privilege of knowing her, one couldn’t but always be struck by the depth of her fearless commitment to the important issues which she brought to public attention, no matter how uncomfortable those truths may have been,” Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement.

“What Ireland has lost at such a relatively young age is one of our greatest and most gifted composers, songwriters and performers of recent decades.”

Sinead Marie Bernadette O’Connor was born in the affluent Dublin suburb of Glenageary on December 8, 1966.

She was sent to a reform school for girls but left in her mid-teens to focus on a career in music, after co-writing a song for Irish band In Tua Nua. The band’s drummer had discovered her singing at his sister’s wedding.

She moved to London in 1985 and after scrapping the initial tapes for her debut LP on the grounds that the production was too Celtic, she took the producer’s seat herself and began re-recording the album, called The Lion and the Cobra. It would go on to earn her a Grammy Award nomination.

However, it was track six on the follow-up album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, that catapulted O’Connor to global fame.

The record earned O’Connor four more Grammy nominations – and a win for best alternative music performance – but she shunned the ceremony in protest at the “false and destructive materialistic values” of the music industry.

She released two more albums in the early 1990s and several more in the 2000s while publicly sharing her struggles with mental health illness.

O’Connor converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat. She continued to perform under the name Sinead O’Connor.

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