Sinéad O’Connor is opening up about her infamous appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”
The Irish singer reflected on her rise to fame in a new trailer for the documentary “Nothing Compares.” In it, the 55-year-old explained why she was compelled to rip up a photo of Pope John Paul II on camera.
“I had come across an article about families who had been trying to lodge complaints against the church for sexual abuse and were being silenced,” the “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer explained. “Basically everything I had been raised to believe was a lie.”
During her appearance on the late-night show in October 1992, O’Connor performed an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “War.” It was then that she tore up the photo and told a stunned audience to “fight the real enemy.”
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According to NBC, nearly a thousand angry callers reached out following the performance. Joe Pesci, who was a guest on “SNL” the following week, condemned O’Connor in his opening monologue.
O’Connor was slammed by the Anti-Defamation League and the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, which hired a steamroller to crush hundreds of her albums outside of her record company’s headquarters. Frank Sinatra called her “one stupid broad” and Madonna was openly critical of the performance. O’Connor was also shouted off-stage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert in Madison Square Garden.
In the documentary, O’Connor said that as an artist, it was her duty to speak out on tough subjects – no matter the outcome.
“I wasn’t thinking to myself, I must be strong,” she said. “I didn’t know I was strong. An artist’s job is sometimes to create the difficult conversations that need to be had. That’s what art is for.”
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Despite the backlash, O’Connor insisted she has no regrets.
“A lot of people say or think that tearing up the pope’s photo derailed my career,” she reflected in her 2021 book “Rememberings.”
“That’s not how I feel about it,” she wrote. “I feel that having a number-one record derailed my career and my tearing the photo put me back on the right track.”
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“Nothing Compares,” directed by Kathryn Ferguson, will be available for streaming on Sept. 30 via Showtime. According to a press release, the film will explore O’Connor’s “phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and examine how she used her voice at the height of her stardom before her iconoclastic personality led to her exile from the pop mainstream.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
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