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Sinead O’Connor Was Ireland’s Alternative Moral Compass

And Ireland was in her songs. “Dublin in a rainstorm” was the setting for one of her finest, “Troy.” Her voice was pure and strong, and Anita Baker described it as “cavernous.” She traversed alt-rock and pop, reggae and traditional Irish music. She covered Prince, Nirvana and John Grant. On “8 Good Reasons” (a title that referred to the eyes of her four children, she explained), she sang, “You know I love to make music, but my head got wrecked by the business.”

When I first interviewed O’Connor, in 2007, backstage at the Oxegen music festival, in Kildare, she seemed a little shaky, but utterly cool, friendly and fun. In 2014, I sat listening to her talk about her latest album, “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss,” as she chain-smoked in a Dublin recording studio, her face tattoos faded by laser removal treatment.

Although I only knew her from afar, the sense of connection she created, both through the music and what she stood for, was profound. Her loss has instigated a deep collective grief across Ireland. She was a symbol of hope as much as defiance, an artist and thinker who always stood on the horizon, urging others to catch up.

When I heard the news, I felt the gut-punch of loss. It was as though something elemental had departed the world, and some essential tributary had run dry within me.

My wife stood up from the couch, walked to the fireplace, and lit a candle, the traditional gesture of Irish grief and remembrance. The national broadcaster’s main radio station played song after song. We remembered that night in March, when the roar and applause of the audience in Dublin seemed to say: thank you, we love you, you were right.

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