You Say It's Your Birthday: Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O'Connor is blowing out 31 birthday candles today. Born in Dublin,

Ireland, she perhaps is best-known for her #1 hit "Nothing Compares 2 U"

and her controversial statements about the Roman Catholic Church, but her

strong voice and emotionally raw songs have kept a strong, cult audience by

her side. O'Connor persevered through a difficult childhood, facing abuse

from her mother and the emotional torment that accompanied her parent's

divorce when she was eight. She spent her teen-age years being bounced from

a variety of Catholic, boarding and reform schools before being discovered

singing "Evergreen" at a wedding by In Tua Nua drummer Paul Byrne. O'Connor

co-wrote In Tua Nua's first single, "Take My Hand," and then spent the next

year singing Bob Dylan covers in coffeehouses. At the age of 16, O'Connor

enrolled in Dublin's College of Music and studied voice and piano. She

moved to London in the early '80s, and her first appearance on a recording

came on the soundtrack to the 1986 film The Captive, on which she

collaborated with U2 guitarist the Edge.

1987 brought the release of her solo debut, the #36 charting The Lion

and the Cobra. O'Connor not only made an instant impression with her

shaved head and traditional Irish singing-style backed by slash-and-burn

guitars, but she also made an instant mark on the rock scene with her

pro-IRA comments and slagging of chart-toppers and fellow countrymen U2.

In 1990, she released I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got, which

spawned the Prince-penned single, "Nothing Compares 2 U," and helped to

further her down the road to controversy. The British tabloids relished in

chronicling her love life, while she earned no friends in the U.S. by

refusing to play in a New Jersey hall if they played "The Star-Spangled

Banner" before she performed. Later that year, she refused to appear on

Saturday Night Live with misogynist comedian Andrew Dice Clay and

then withdrew from the Grammy ceremony in solidarity with rappers who were

protesting their exclusion from the televised portion of the program. In

1992 she surprised -- some might say alienated -- her fans by releasing an

album of jazzy torch-songs entitled Am I Not Your Girl?. Later that

year, she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night

Live and, shortly thereafter, was booed at a Dylan tribute concert.

1994's Universal Mother mixed spoken-word performances with hip-hop

influenced songs but failed to yield any hits. Earlier this year, she

released an EP entitled Gospel Oak and toured the U.S. and Europe.

Other birthdays: Johnny Otis, 76; Bobby Elliot (the Hollies), 55; Gregg

Allman (Allman Brothers Band), 50; Don J. Bonebrake (X), 42; Warren

Cuccurullo (Frank Zappa/Missing Persons), 41; Paul Rutherford (Frankie Goes

to Hollywood), 38; Jim Morrison (The Doors); and Bushwick Bill (Geto Boys), 31.