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Sinead O'Connor

The Last Day of our Acquaintance

By Rachel RobbinsPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - July 2023

A few years ago, an ex-boyfriend sent me the link to Sinead O’Connor’s song – Mandinka. He wanted me to know that it reminded him of me, how I was when he knew me. We were a couple in the late 1980s. I was a first year University Drama student. I was in the midst of grappling with who I was, my Catholic faith, and how to project myself onto the world.

I was flattered by the song. I wish I had been the girl who could sing at the top of her lungs –

“I don’t know no shame, I feel no pain.”

I wish I had been that wild, that articulate about suppression and how it feels trying not to buckle under the expectation of being a particular kind of woman.

Last night as I was scrolling through social media a news notification flashed up that Sinead O’Connor had died.

I don’t know why but it pierced me.

Celebrity deaths are a strange phenomenon. The death of some one I know, but that doesn’t know me. That I hold memories and traces of, but for whom I am a passing stranger. It is like revisiting your childhood bedroom, which holds all your secrets, but solidly refuses to be anything other than four walls.

There will be obituaries out there that will track her life through the music she released, the scandal of her ripping up the pope’s picture, her conversion to Islam and the loss of her son.

She did not have an easy time of fame and always looked unguarded under its glare.

So, what can I say that is different? Can I pay tribute to her? Can I explain the little gasp I exhaled when I read the news? What punctured me?

She was just two years older than me and she is no longer here.

She had been so vital.

In Mandinka, she radiated a liberated creativity that I could just sit back and admire.

She is perhaps best known for her cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U. She did the impossible. She sang a Prince song better than Prince could. The video of a tear-filled, heavily-lashed eye. The embodiment of grief. Her voice raw and pure.

Watching that video it is hard not to know that she was beautiful – achingly, delicately beautiful. But she never played on it. She shaved her head and stood with brutal fragility in front of a camera to capture her solitude. The shaved head was a statement, a declaration of her independence from society’s need to objectify her.

Her voice held anger and compassion in equal parts.

My favourite song of hers is “This is the Last Day of Our Acquaintance”. It is a straight-forward statement of an ending. This is no heartbreak, no ‘he-done-me-wrong’ song. It is a disassociated frankness of relationship breakdown. And it breaks me a little every time I hear it. There is no turning back from the knowledge that it holds – that sometimes love just ends. It is grown-up. It just is.

“I’ll talk but you won’t listen to me.

I know your answer already.”

The mundanity of a failed affair. The moving on. The resentment as part of the fabric of life.

And Sinead knew what it was like not be listened to.

She tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II and laid the accusation bare of church child sexual abuse. She knew she was right. She wanted to be honest. That was more important than record sales and popularity. She was the child at the centre of the Emperor’s New Clothes who pointed at the naked truth. But we forgot to point and laugh along. We didn’t have her courage. I didn’t have her courage.

So, that gasp I let out. It’s that her courage isn’t in the world anymore.

And she was right – as she said in “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance” – we took it for granted.


About the Creator

Rachel Robbins

Writer-Performer based in the North of England. A joyous, flawed mess.

Please read my stories and enjoy. And if you can, please leave a tip. Money raised will be used towards funding a one-woman story-telling, comedy show.

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Comments (14)

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  • Grz Colm2 months ago

    A good read! 😢 I haven’t listened to her work in years but she has some brilliant songs. I must revisit these. Thanks for sharing your article! ☺️ ..& congrats on a Top story.

  • Zeeshan May2 months ago

    A poignant and soul-stirring story that delicately touches on the bittersweet emotions of parting ways, leaving a lasting impression on the heart. 🎶💔

  • Raymond G. Taylor2 months ago

    Bless you for sharing a profound memory. Prince’s song of love and loss grew full grown in Sinead O’Connor’s haunting rendition. Requiem Aeternam.

  • Heather Lunsford2 months ago

    I'm of the same generation as you, I was hooked the first time I heard "Nothing Compares To You" I was watching SNL when she tore up the picture of the Pope. Like you I was not offended but blown away by her courage. You nailed it she sang a Prince song better than Prince. One of my favorite is when she sang "Dager To The Heart" on a Dolly Parton tribute album. I think it's possible she also sang Dolly Parton better than Dolly did. Thank you for your well written tribute.

  • Amazing and Congratulations on your Top Story💖🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Awesome tribute to Sineas O'Conner!!! Your response to seeing the news was much like mine. Your story was wonderful written and loved it!!!❤️❤️💕 Congratulations on Top Story!!!

  • Erica Wagner2 months ago

    I just tweeted this lovely piece, Rachel — thank you for sharing on Vocal.

  • Veronica Coldiron2 months ago

    Nonconformists suffer so much for their ideals. I remember seeing her on television refusing a Grammy and thinking she was crazy. Since then, I've met a man who's dad had 4 Grammies and they still had to learn four different ways to fry bologna. It took courage to do a thing like that, but in retrospect, what good is a trophy if you don't stand up for your beliefs? I admired her decision to be bald as much as I admired Anne Lennox's decision to cut her hair off. She, too, didn't want people to judge her contributions by her looks. This is an excellent article. (And congrats on the Top Story)

  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    An unfortunate loss. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Gerald Holmes2 months ago

    Congrats on your Top Story. Well deserved.

  • Kendall Defoe 2 months ago

    I started a piece about what she meant to me, and now I see I'm in good company. Thank you for this!

  • Gerald Holmes2 months ago

    Excellent work. I have always loved her voice, both as a singer and as a person.

  • A sad loss and this is a great take on her career. She wrote some great songs and made some great collaborations. This deserves a Top Story

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