By – Kristi Houk
“These are dangerous days. To say what you feel is to dig your own grave.”
-Sinead O’Connor, “Black Boys on Mopeds”
from I Do Not Want What I haven’t Got, (1990)
I wasn’t supposed to write this.
I was slated to review the latest Guided by Voices album (which is great, btw), but while poking around online during my lunch break on Wednesday, I saw the post with all of the broken heart emoji’s in the comments section.
Sinead O’Connor is dead. Frozen, I knew what I had to do.
I called the boss and told him GBV would have to wait. His only suggestion: “Put your heart into it.”
I have no idea how a copy (on cassette) of her 1990 masterpiece, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got came into my life. Did I buy it? Was it a gift? All I know is I was 15, it was late spring and I was living in a one room garage apartment with a single mother, young brother and a myriad of emotions that I didn’t know how to wrangle. The album became my refuge. My safe place. “All I need is inside me.”
Like everyone else, I had seen the video for the single (written by Prince), “Nothing Compares 2 You” and instantly fell in love. She’s really crying! The album begins with O’Connor reciting the serenity prayer and bleeds into “Feels So Different.” The voice. From a soft murmur to a frantic wail. It was as if she’d infiltrated my head and reached down with her slinky frame into my heart. I know I’m not alone when I say, I had never heard songs that honest. That raw. Both fragile and badass. She put everything on the line at a time when speaking out against any patriarchal system was unprecedented, particularly for a woman.
Did we deserve her? Absolutely not. She was too pure for this world. But also dirty as hell. There’s a lyric in “Jump in the River” that still makes me blush (and turns me on?)
There’s been days like this before, you know
And I liked it all
Like the times we did it so hard
There was blood on the wall
As a mother myself, I can’t fathom the pain that comes with losing a child and I hope I never have to. What I do know is that Sinead O’Connor’s music eased my pain at a time when no one else could.
Thank you, Sinead. From this confused, sensitive 15-year-old trying to make sense of her unforgiving surroundings.
You will rise and you’ll return. And I will leave the light on.
Written by: kristi houk
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