From the acclaimed, controversial singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor comes a revelatory memoir of her fraught childhood, musical triumphs, fearless activism, and of the enduring power of song. Blessed with a singular voice and a fiery temperament, Sinéad O’Connor rose to massive fame in the late 1980s and 1990s with a string of gold records. By the time she was twenty, she was world famous—living a rock star life out loud. From her trademark shaved head to her 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live when she tore up Pope John Paul II’s photograph, Sinéad has fascinated and outraged millions. In Rememberings, O’Connor recounts her painful tale of growing up in Dublin in a dysfunctional, abusive household...
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 1, 2021) Hardcover: 304 pages ISBN-10: 0358423880 ISBN-13: 978-0358423881 Dimensions: 6 x 1.18 x 9 inches
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I CAN’T REMEMBER any more than I have given my publisher. Except for that which is private or that I wish to forget. The totality indeed of what I do not recall would fill ten thousand libraries, so it’s probably just as well I don’t remember.
Chiefly I don’t remember because I wasn’t really present until about six months ago. And as I write this, I’m fifty-four years of age. There are many reasons I wasn’t present. You can glean them here. Or most of them.
I was actually present before my first album came out. And then I went somewhere else inside myself. And I began to smoke weed. I never finally stopped until mid-2020. So, yeah, I ain’t been quite here, and it’s hard to recollect what you weren’t present at.
Making music is hard to write about. I was present then. In the place deep inside myself that only I know. But if you could talk about music you wouldn’t need music, so perhaps the things I talk about here are not always music. But they are the sum of what I can recollect and tell from my youth until now.
I have left some people out because I know they prefer privacy and others because I want them to be pissed when they look for their names in the book and don’t find them.
That I wasn’t present explains why there are two very distinctly different voices in this book, one leading up to the tearing of the pope’s picture in 1992 and a new one afterward. This is because it took me four years to write anything after “the pope chapters” (the night before and the night of SNL), years during which I lived in and out of mental-health institutions sorting out my reasons for not being present. Afterward, a new voice began speaking. And I hope this is acceptable to the reader. (It’s pretty much the best I can do.)
I see the first voice as a ghost’s and the next as a living woman’s. Both are equally important. There was a symbolic death and rebirth. And you can hear it. I am, in fact, rather proud of it.
Now, I ain’t gonna be winning the Booker Prize anytime soon. And I ain’t Bob Dylan or Shakespeare or even in the class of my amazing brother Joseph as a writer. But I’ve told my story as I remember it and tried to tell it the way I speak. I imagined a certain person I was talking to as I was writing or talking the chapters. Never gonna tell you who that was, though.
I was very young when my career kicked off. I never had or took the time to “find myself.” But I think you’ll see in this book a girl who does find herself, not by success in the music industry but by taking the opportunity to sensibly and truly lose her marbles. The thing being that after losing them, one finds them and plays the game better.
I am an older woman now with a different voice. So this is only my first memoir. My intention is to live a long life and keep diaries this time so I won’t forget. However, it was necessary for me to let the child inside me speak because she needed to speak. And because I did, she is older now and chooses to remain about seventeen.
Please know that I have deep and infinite love and compassion for both my parents, who did their very best in what was a very difficult time for Ireland and for Irish people. And my father remains my idol, having borne more pain than any human being I know and having borne it so heroically. We are a family made of soldier DNA. There are military great- and great-great-uncles. And this has stood to both my father and myself.
I especially hope that by letting the child speak I do not cause offense or upset to anyone in my family. I haven’t discussed anyone’s experiences but my own. And I apologize in advance if anything I’ve written does cause upset. It was not my intention.
My intention was to put all the pieces of the jigsaw that was me out on the floor and see if I could put it together. To be understood was my desire. Along with that was my desire not to have the ignorant tell my story when I’m gone. Which was what would have happened had I not told it myself.
If I hope for anything as an artist, it’s that I inspire certain people to be who they really are. My audiences seem to be people who have been given a hard time for being who they are. It ain’t easy being green—maybe they don’t know they are the reason I get to be who I really am. Onstage, I can always be who I really am.
Offstage, not so much. I never made sense to anyone, even myself, unless I was singing.
But I hope this book makes sense.
If not, maybe try singing it and see if that helps.
Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees!
BEFORE WE BEGIN, for the purposes of clarity, here is the architecture of my family and when I was with whom.
My mother, Marie, and father, John, married in 1960 and set up home in Crumlin, Dublin, where they had been raised. Three years later my brother Joe was born and they moved to middle-class Glenageary, far away on the other side of town. Then in 1965 came my sister, Éimear. Then me fourteen months later, in 1966. Then in 1968, my brother John.
In 1975, my father sensibly left my mother for reasons this book will help you glean. He was given custody of us and we went to live with him and his new love, my (lovely) stepmother, Viola. But me and my little brother stayed only maybe six months because we missed our mother.
At that point I was nine. I stayed with my mother until I was thirteen and then I went, by choice, back to live with my father. I was unable to adjust after what had been going on in my mother’s house, so toward the end of my thirteenth year, I went to what is politely called a “rehabilitation center for girls with behavioral problems.” (I think the whole world knows a refund is owed my father for that, as it clearly didn’t work.)
At fifteen I left the center and went to a boarding school in Waterford. I joined a band that summer, and when I went back to school, I missed the band. So in December, after I turned sixteen, I ran away from the school and got myself a studio apartment, a bedsit, much to the horror of my poor father. He eventually agreed to let me stay once I agreed to remove the nose piercing I’d also gotten. He paid my rent but none of my bills, so I had to get jobs. He’s a genius.
My father’s second wife, Viola, has three daughters from a different marriage. So I have three stepsisters. Viola and my father also have one son, Eoin. So he’s my brother also.
In 1985 my mother died in a car crash. I was eighteen. Later that year, after being invited by Ensign Records to sign a contract with them, I left for London.
My first child was born when I was twenty, three weeks before my first album was released. I have three other children and, so far, two grandchildren.