Those records emerged from a young lifetime of pain, including her abusive mother who died young, but if anything, from there O’Connor’s path only got more fraught. Over the course of her career she beefed with U2, Prince, Madonna, Joe Pesci, Miley Cyrus and Frank Sinatra. She made a statement against child abuse in the Catholic church with a famously dramatic gesture on Saturday Night Live; public opinion turned so sharply and angrily against her that it must have been small consolation indeed when, about twenty years later, a lot of folks were like “Y’know, maybe she kind of had a point.”
There’s a regrettably robust tradition of famous women who get marginalized or publicly ridiculed for iconoclasm, outspokenness, mental health struggles, or some combination thereof, from Billie Holiday to Anne Heche, and in addition to that ostracism O’Connor also dealt with turbulent personal relationships and the death last year of her 17-year-old son.
But she never stopped making music. She never regretted expressing herself on SNL, and she never apologized for it. And she’s pretty much to only person ever to sing a Prince song and not have people think “I wish Prince were singing this instead.” She was an artist, and she was punk rock, and she deserved better than most of what this world gave her.