Controversial Irish singer Sinead O'Connor has announced that she will retire from the music business this summer, marking at least the second time the troubled performer has said she's calling it quits.
In a message posted on her official Web site, the singer wrote, "As of July 2003 I shall be retiring from the music business [in] order to pursue a different career."
O'Connor, who has long struggled with her fame, wrote in her note, "I seek no longer to be a 'famous' person, and instead I wish to live a 'normal' life, could people please afford me my privacy. By which I mean I would like not to have exploition [sic] of my self or my name or anyone connected with me by newspapers. I also mean that (with love) I want to be like any other person in the street and not have people say there is Sinead O'Connor. As I am a very shy person, believe it or not."
A Vanguard Records spokesperson confirmed that the post is from O'Connor, and said that it is not yet clear if her final recording — a concert and documentary DVD due in July appropriately entitled Goodnight, Thank You. You've Been a Lovely Audience — will be released on the label. O'Connor wrote that the DVD will feature songs from her entire career, up through her album of traditional Irish songs released last year, Sean-Nós Nua.
O'Connor had been slated to open sporadic dates for Massive Attack in Europe over the next two months, but pulled out last week citing health problems, which she does not address in her farewell note. The Vanguard spokesperson said no additional information was available on O'Connor's illness.
In addition to the DVD, O'Connor wrote that she will be appearing on an upcoming Dolly Parton tribute album, singing the song "Dagger Through the Heart," as well as on the new album by Irish accordionist Sharon Shannon; both songs are to be recorded next month.
O'Connor was one of the most controversial and unpredictable pop stars of the late '80s and early '90s, applauded for her strong, feminist message and bearing, but also ridiculed for her brash pronouncements and bizarre career choices. The 36-year-old singer began her career in 1984, recording a song with the Irish band In Tua Nua, soon after joining the group Ton Ton Macoute. She released her solo debut, The Lion and the Cobra, in 1987, which drew notice for O'Connor's strong, resonant voice and impassioned, edgy music, not to mention her striking, chrome-domed look.
The singer has said that her troubled home life, which included her parents' bitter divorce and allegations that her mother sexually abused her, was the fuel for many of her fiery lyrics and actions. She was outspoken from the start, bucking convention by voicing her support for the Irish Republican Army and slagging the music of her early mentors, U2.
O'Connor's second album, 1990's multiplatinum I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, was the best selling of her career and spawned the worldwide hit "Nothing Compares 2 U," which was written by Prince. The video for the song — a striking close-up of the emotional singer's face, including a scene in which she sheds a single tear — won three 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Video. Again, the singer courted controversy, refusing to perform in New Jersey if "The Star-Spangled Banner" were played prior to her show, which inspired the late Frank Sinatra to proclaim that he'd like to, "kick her ass."
Though people were confused by her next effort, 1992's collection of pop standards, Am I Not Your Girl? — which included a version of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from the musical "Evita" — the album was nothing compared to the singer's most notorious act.
During a "Saturday Night Live" performance, O'Connor ended her cover of Bob Marley's "War" by ripping up a picture of the Pope and saying, "Fight the real enemy." The move by the self-avowed Catholic was so controversial that producer Lorne Michaels will not allow it to be shown in reruns. O'Connor was booed off the stage of an all-star Bob Dylan tribute concert two weeks later and her career never again reached the same peaks of popularity. Soon after, it was reported that O'Connor would retire from the music business and reports surfaced of the singer suffering a nervous breakdown and attempting suicide.
O'Connor returned two years later with the spiritually charged Universal Mother album, announcing that she would no longer do press interviews. A mini-album, Gospel Oak, was released in 1997, followed by a stint on the 1998 Lilith Fair Tour and an appearance in the film "The Butcher Boy" as Mary, mother of Jesus. Again bucking convention, O'Connor was ordained as a female priest for the Latin Tridentine Church, a splinter group of the Roman Catholic Church, in 1999, at which time she apologized for the "SNL" outburst. Soon after coming out as a lesbian, O'Connor married boyfriend Nick Sommlad in a secret 2001 ceremony.
Her reggae-influenced Faith and Courage album was released in 2000, followed by 2002's Sean-Nós Nua.
"So I ask with love, that I be left in peace and privacy by people who love my records," O'Connor wrote in her farewell note. "My advise [sic] to anyone who ever admires a so-called 'celebrity' if u see them in the street, don't even look at them. If u love them, then the lovingest [sic] thing u can do to show them so is leave them alone and don't stare at them! ... Or make them get their picture taken, or write their names on bits of paper. That's pieces of them. And one day they wake up with nothing left of themselves to give."