Geographical Formation 1: Sinéad O’Connor

In 1985, after the death of her mother in a car accident, Sinéad O’Connor moved from Ireland to London. Her second album, I Don’t Want What I Haven’t Got (1990) had on the inner sleeve, a photograph of the family of Colin Roach, standing in the rain, protesting the death of their black son while in the custody of the police. The album included ‘Black Boys on Mopeds,’ incited by an incident where London police spooked and then chased black kids who were on mopeds. The police suspected the mopeds were too expensive-looking to be other than stolen. One of the boys crashed into a petrol station and died.

England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving. (Sinéad O’Connor, ‘Black Boys on Mopeds,’ 1990)

O’Connor moved back to Ireland in 1992 and has said that her primary concern was to find a safe place to raise her children. While she is able to give her children a safe life in Ireland, she herself had not been so fortunate. To find the spirituality that can sustain her own healing, O’Connor has had to look beyond the Catholicism of her home country. She has sought out Rastafari spirituality. Her facility with reggae music is at once musical and spiritual. Lay Down Your Arms (CD, Chocolate and Vanilla, 2005) was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, with the legendary Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. This geographical choice was also perhaps about escaping the confines of English racism and of institutional Irish Catholicism. Asked about this in 2013, O’Connor told the readers of Uncut magazine that Rastafari is:

[A]n anti-religious movement with no ‘isms’, one that believes in the presence of a living God. […] Rastafari has helped focus me as a human being and as an artist. I also love the fact that they see music as a priesthood.

Jamaica was distant from both Catholicism and racism, and being there may have reconnected her music with her spirituality, giving O’Connor a praiseworthy basis for singing.


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