Sinead O'Connor: The controversial singer turns to the Bible for new album

Tuesday 26th June 2007

With the release of her 'Theology' double CD, SINEAD O'CONNOR was willing to talk to Cross Rhythms' Tony Cummings.

Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O'Connor

It was March 1990 when a singer from Glengeary, Ireland was suddenly catapulted form critic's darling to international pop icon when her unforgettable reading of an obscure Prince song "Nothing Compares 2 U" became a gigantic best seller. Considered by some to be one of the greatest pop records ever made, Sinead O'Connor's tear-soaked vocal was a heart stopping cry of emotional pain which once heard could never be forgotten. The accompanying video of that shaven headed beauty increased the emotional intensity even further. A stream of successful albums followed for the singer. But the next decade proved to be a hard and rocky road for the singer. In 1991 Sinead was the first ever person to refuse her Grammy for her 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got' album. Then, after ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II on US Saturday Night Live she was booed off stage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in October 1992. Sinead announced her retirement but then retracted the decision in late 1992. And so the emotional roller coaster moved on.

Allegations of abuse by her mother resulted in a family feud, a subsequent breakdown and suicide attempt. Her 1994 'Universal Mother' contained lyrics of bleak starkness but failed to reach the sales heights of earlier albums while 2000 saw the release of 'Faith And Courage' following the announcement that the singer had been ordained into a little known Catholic sect and was now known as "Mother Bernadette". Also in 2000 Sinead announced she was a lesbian but then a year later married journalist Nick Sommerland. In 2002 she told The Irish Times that "I am still a priest, but how I feel about it is very much a private thing between me and the Holy Spirit." In the same interview she also said he was a "dedicated weed-head." Then most recently of all came a media announcement that Sinead's discovery that she was bi-polar and that some of her more erratic behaviour in the past had been the result of this particular medical condition. This month Sinead released her first album since 2005's covers set 'Throw Down Your Arms'. The new release is based largely on Scripture and is Sinead's "personal response to what has taken place and is affecting everyone around the world since and including September 11, 2001." The album 'Theology' was recorded in acoustic vein in Dublin and with a second album, with subtle electronics provided by producer RonTom in London. The double CD is a mix of O'Connor compositions such as "If You Had A Vineyard" based on passages from Isaiah and Jeremiah ("I adore how the prophet books speak very much about today's world"); "Whomsoever Dwells" (with lyrics from Psalm 91 - Sinead's favourite Psalm) and a casting of Psalm 33 in "33" ("this Psalm traditionally is the one you say when someone is expecting a baby, which I was at the time of recording"). The album also contains covers of songs by Curtis Mayfield ("We People Who Are Darker Than Blue"), Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber (the Jesus Christ Superstar evergreen "I Don't Know How To Love Him" - the album's first single) and an old Melodians' reggae classic later mangled by Boney M ("By The Rivers Of Babylon"). But it's Sinead's own songs, particularly the stunning "Out Of The Depths" which led me to the conviction that Cross Rhythms needed to interview this most gifted of singer/songwriters. Very aware that aspects of Sinead's theology and lifestyle would lead some Cross Rhythms readers to conclude that the singer is not, in fact, a Christian, I can only state that from my perspective, Sinead's art contains much which would feed any believer with the ears to listen. I spoke to Sinead prior to her return to concerts across Europe in July and August followed by a tour of North America in September/October.

Tony: Why the decision to do it as double? The one the acoustic version and then most of the songs in the studio version as well?

Sinead: I guess it kinda happened by accident really. I originally had planned just to make the acoustic record and what had happened was that the guy who produced the London record, we just kind of met at the same time that I was writing the songs. He said would I come to London to make some demos with him just for fun really to see how we got on in the studio. The only songs that I had were some of the songs from 'Theology' so we just messed about in the studio with those and then when the demos were finished and I said to him, "Look, I want us to work on a future record and not 'Theology'. He was devastated, really upset and just pleaded with me to let him make the record. So I said yes, but I had already started recording the acoustic. So it kinda ended up being a double record that way!

Tony: Were you pleased with what the studio version was able to bring to the songs?

Sinead: Yes - very much. I've always been intrigued with the idea of a recording that shows the evolution in a way in which songs develop, how it is when a person just sits in their sitting room writing them with a guitar and then what happens when they've been produced. So I had kinda felt quite confident about these songs too that you could do them in any kind of fashion.

Tony: My absolute favourite track on 'Theology' is "Out Of The Depths". I absolutely love that song! It's inspired by Psalm 130 isn't it?

Sinead: Yes. It starts with some of the words from Psalm 130 and I believe it finishes with some of the words from it as well. It was inspired by that Psalm.

Tony: To me it speaks of the difference between religion and spirituality.

Sinead: Yes, well I guess I would be someone who feels that God and religion are two different things and that in many ways religion holds God hostage. I think that there are these walls of rules and regulations behind which God gets trapped and also in front of which people get kept out. That to me is a concern. There's this attitude in a lot of religions, that they hold God hostage and they say when God can come out to love someone and when God must go back in and not love someone. I find that to be slightly blasphemous to be honest.

Tony: But isn't that an understandable inheritance because of the Bible? Because we've got his inspired book we are effectively attempting to apply a lot of rules into our lives?

Sinead: Well, yes, I think you're right obviously in some cases and some of the rules I wouldn't object to - the basic Ten Commandments, obviously no one would argue with those. But there are certainly things which are applied by modern religions which I don't necessarily think there is a whole lot of basis for in actual Scripture. I mean, if you really study the scripture of almost any religion under the sun, they tell you that God loves everyone equally, but an awful lot of religions seem to be selective as to who can be loved and who must not be loved, which to me is contradictory.

Tony: I'd like to come back to you about that in a minute. But just talk me through a bit more about the album. What's your personal favourite on the album?

Sinead: My personal favourite really would be on the acoustic album, "33". I am also very proud of "If You Had A Vineyard". But the one that I'm personally very moved by would be "33" on the acoustic version.

Showing page 1 of 4

1 2 3 4

Reader Comments

Posted by David Hallidfay in Newcastle @ 12:29 on Mar 23 2008

Hi ,
I was extremely moved by Sinead's version of an old hymn on the radio many weeks' ago . But , in time honoured fashion , I have forgotten the hymn's title .Could you tell me what it was ? It was slow and sung with such sincerenity .
Thank you

Posted by Simeon Bar-Kochva in Israel @ 20:21 on Mar 6 2008

I am jewish and find sineads versions of the pslams of Issaiah & Jeremiah very beautiful and authentic, as do i the song 'if you had a vineyard'

Posted by Colin Blatchford-Bro in Somerset, England @ 20:02 on Jul 25 2007

I believe if only Christians were interviewed or promoted on this website, then there would be little or no opportunity for the Word to be spread in the way we have been instructed. Reaping and sowing comes to mind, we need to be mindful not to judge, lest we be judged in turn. Well done, great interview and I for one will go and buy this album now, and by playing it to friends and family, this will be another route for God's Word to be conveyed. Thank you

Reply by K Piette in Horsham @ 19:41 on Aug 10 2007

True, we are indeed to preach the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth, but then so do muslims preach their way, and many others. Not all roads lead to Rome. I think people are very easily deceived by this way of thinking. Satan knows God's word too - he tried to tempt even Jesus to do his own thing.
The Word of God is clear, the road is narrow and not all shall pass through the gate.
My heart is certainly not to judge those who are searching for the right way to live, but to teach people Jesus is the only Way, Truth and Life and none can come to God except through Him. God is not a God of confusion, he brings peace beyond understanding and his voice will always resound among the loudest noises. There is so much more power in obeying God alone than trying to follow several paths.
Think about it!

[report abuse]

Posted by Katie Piette in Horsham @ 17:57 on Jul 7 2007

I am somewhat surprised - even shocked - that you choose to put forward Sinead O'Connor as a "christian artist". She's uncertain of her sexuality, she is an ordained priestess of a sect, she agrees with rastafarianism, she thinks it's ok for people to be intimate with "whatever they call God"... Is this the testimony of someone you should be spotlighting?
Anyone can use Biblical texts in their songs, but does what they say match their lifestyle and the way of life you advocate on this website? Are they wholeheartedly committed to God or is He just a philosophy to go hand in hand with any other "nice" tolerant ideas or world views?
I agree the interview is a good one - eye-opening - sadly it shows me that more discernment is needed when it comes to the artists you promote. Please don't be too hasty to elevate people just because they sing about God.

Reply by George Robinson in UK @ 13:58 on Sep 3 2017

Thankfully Christ was not as choosy as to whom he welcomed into the flock. Love and exposure to the light are so much more beneficial that calls for censorship and judgement.

[report abuse]

Reply by B Punzel in USA @ 19:50 on Jul 23 2007

I have to say that I am surprised as well that this woman would be promoted as a Christ-believer. I also don't agree with most religions, and believe that most of us pigeon-hole God with our human ideals. Our faith ought to come from the Bible, the inspired Word of God, which He said would not change although everything in heaven and earth would pass away. He also said that no one was to add or take away from His Word and if they did, they were in violation. Jesus says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and NO ONE comes to the Father except through Him. That is pretty direct and straight forward, there is no choosing our own ways. trying to find loop holes in the system to allow ourselves to do whatever we want and relate to God in whatever way we want is to find a loop hole right out of the Will of God. God gave His children strict instructions on how they were to live, which means He has a way that He believes things ought to be done. Rules and Reg's that's how He does things - instead of the Law of Death, we now live under the Law of Life and that is accessed in One Way. We are to live under God's Law and that doesn't mean that we come up with our own way of doing things. We live by the Spirit. We are all to be growing in maturity of the Word everyday, reaching to attain and allowing God's Grace to rule and reign in our lives. I believe some of the things said by this sadly lost individual may truly be sincere, but all the same, sincerely lost... my prayer is that people will see God for who HE is and look past all of us who shed bad light on His Name.

[report abuse]

Posted by beaux mitchell minet in The Motorcity @ 17:15 on Jul 7 2007

She would indeed be a heavy-hitter for Jesus Christ if in fact she has turned her life over to Him.And it is not my place to make that judgement.I will surely keep Sinead O'Connor in my prayers.We could use another talented singer out here speaking the Truth.
Sincerely,beaux mitchell minetola
(singer from Bloodscrubed )

Posted by Spot in UK @ 19:19 on Jun 26 2007

Nice interview. In a similar vein, Rickie Lee Jones has released an album about Jesus this year.

Posted by Efstathiou Maria in Bucharest - RO @ 12:07 on Jun 26 2007

She is The best singer!

Posted by Efstathiou Maria in Romania @ 12:01 on Jun 26 2007

Firstly My congratulation FOR SINEAD, for her upcoming disc THEOLOGY. There are special songs based on Bible psalms. I read just all her reviews in all newspapers which I can find online. She is The Best Singers which I have ever heard. All my best wishes in HER career. Love PHEIDIAS

Posted by C in west midlands, UK @ 09:34 on Jun 26 2007

i have'nt listened to much Sinead O'Connor, aside from hits like "Nothing Compares.........", but i heard a song from her recent albums on CR, and i was touched by the spiritual depth of the song. i grew up in a similar home environment to Sinead (except not Catholic), so i can really relate to her comment about how she had to "cling to Jesus" during those times of being hurt, and also the effects it had on my own mental health later in life. i became a "real" Christian during the time i was at my most unwell, and i am struck by how God can use things like this to bring his "strayed" children home. i believe that God may have used Sinead's Bipolar Disorder to do this for her too, altho' i'm no prophet, so don't quote me on that!
i will be listening to more O'Connor now, i think she deserves respect, not criticism. some Christians criticise Bono and KevinMax 'cos their histories and lifestyle have been "not Christian enough", but God can use anyone even if they drink, swear etc, or have lived "unconventional" lives; what is in a person's heart is more important.

Reply by Brenda in US @ 19:04 on Jul 23 2007

I agree, while none of us are perfect, we ought to be working towards perfection in Christ and doing our best to follow his example. We all need healing in our lives and need to learn how to deal with our hurts and pains God's way, being continually transformed by the Word on a daily basis - not being conformed to the world and taking advantage of our salvation. All things lawful, not all things expedient. Taking our sins at the cross should not be in vain, but we ought to work everyday to walk out that victory in our lives. He overcame the world so that we might be overcomers as well.

[report abuse]

Reply by george in the wirral @ 22:32 on Jul 7 2007

I agree that the interview was well done and sensitive.However not sure that I agree completely with C .Yes ,God can use anyone but we should be convicted of not swearing etc. as we commune with the Holy Spirit. What comes from the heart is what lives within .So what lives in our hearts ?

[report abuse]

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.