Why Sinead O'Connor doesn't regret ripping up a picture of the pope
O'Connor explains why the 1992 SNL controversy didn't derail her career — it put her back on track
In October 1992, Sinead O'Connor became a polarizing figure when she destroyed a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, following her stark a cappella performance of Bob Marley's War.
"Fight the real enemy," she spoke into the microphone, throwing the pieces of the photo toward the camera. She had changed Marley's song lyric from "racism" to "child abuse" to protest the abuse of children by the Catholic Church.
As a result, the Irish singer-songwriter was banned from NBC for life and also booed offstage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert a few weeks later.
WATCH | Sinead O'Connor rips picture of Pope John Paul II:
In her new memoir, Rememberings: Scenes from My Complicated Life, O'Connor, 54, reflects on the controversy.
"Far from the pope episode destroying my career, it set me on a path that fit me better," she writes. "I'm not a pop star. I'm just a troubled soul who needs to scream into mikes now and then."
Speaking with host Tom Power in an interview on CBC Radio's Q, O'Connor explained why she doesn't regret the incident or the effect it had on her career.
"People say that tearing up the picture somehow derailed my career. And I feel the opposite of that," she said. "In fact, having a number one record derailed my career."
I found the world of pop stars quite imprisoning. It's a bit like being the Queen of England or the President of Ireland.- Sinead O'Connor
In the pop world, O'Connor felt like she couldn't be herself. She said she spent more time having her picture taken than doing what she really loved — performing live and making music.
"I found the world of pop stars quite imprisoning. It's a bit like being the Queen of England or the President of Ireland. You can't actually express an opinion about anything," she told Power.
For O'Connor, freedom of speech is at the heart of her artistry.
"I'm an Irish artist, and we have a history of causing riots in the streets with songs and plays," she said. "You know, back in the old days, you couldn't put an Irish play on without there being a riot in the street after, or, you know, mounted police on horses outside the gigs in London. Our job as Irish artists [is] to cause riots in the streets."
Hear Tom Power's full conversation with Sinead O'Connor near the top of this page.
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Chris Trowbridge.