October 1992. Staring into the camera, live, in front of millions of viewers, Sinéad O’Connor took a gamble. He denounced the cover-up of cases of pedophilia within the Catholic Church. She did so with a symbolic gesture, tearing a photo of Pope John Paul II into pieces. It caused a scandal of colossal dimensions and a wave of merciless criticism by all the media… and the public. A few days after the incident, at a Bob Dylan tribute concert, received the hostility of a packed Madison Square Garden that did not stop booing her. He had to leave the stage without singing. They didn’t give him the opportunity. Was a disproportionate and merciless punishment. Sinéad O’Connor was right. She never regretted it.
Madonna He jumped on the bandwagon of reproaches: “I think There is a better way to express your disapproval. to tear apart an image that it means a lot to other people” he declared in the Irish Times. an offended Frank Sinatra He also did: “She’s so stupid… I’d kick her ass if she were a boy.”he said in the middle of a show in New Jersey. The scandal – which today is American television history – had broken out on October 3, 1992, on the program ‘Saturday Night Live’. After O’Connor did an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s protest song ‘War,’ He tore up the photo of the Pope and launched the message: “Fight against the true enemy”
He later explained that this symbolic gesture was a protest against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. So, no one seemed to believe her. She had to face the immediate reaction of mass condemnation. NBC banned her from appearing on late night for life. When she left the studio, two young men chased her down the street throwing eggs at her. Thirteen days later the launch followed. But this time boos from a large part of the public (about 20,000 people) that crowded Madison Square Garden in New York
There was no mercy for the young Irish star that night October 16, 1992in which Bob Dylan received the tribute of his professional colleagues30 years have passed since debut. Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Pearl Jam, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson …or Sinéad O’Connor. The guests came out and sang songs by the Minnesota genius. It was up to her to version ‘I believe in you’ (from the 1979 album ‘Slow train coming’) and had been rehearsing it.
When the time came, Kris Kristofferson He acted as master of ceremonies and announced: “I feel truly proud to introduce the next artist whose name is synonymous with courage and integrity. Ladies and gentlemen, Sinéad O’Connor.” Instantly, boos echoed throughout the venue.. There were also cheers and applause… but less. Singer waited patiently until the intense rain of protests subsided. When it seemed like he was subsiding a little, his band timidly began to play. But Dylan fans They attacked with more intensity. Kristofferson appeared and whispered some words of encouragement. She was visibly saddened..
There came a point where O’Connor asked his band to stop, walked up to the microphone and He started singing ‘War’ a cappella (just like he had done on SNL two weeks earlier). When she finished, she turned around and walked backstage. Broken into tears and absolutely heartbroken, she received Kris Kristofferson’s hug, affection and words of encouragement. At the end of the event, everyone came out to sing. Sinéad gained strength and faced that hostile public again. Sophie B. Hawkins was at her side and remembered on her Twitter-X: “I was uncomfortable and challenging, despised again by the public I didn’t want him to be there. I put my arm around her, protectively. She didn’t seem to need my support… She was obviously a Joan of Arc.”.
And it turned out that Sinéad was right to denounce sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church. Since then, These facts have been regularly verified. During decades, Thousands of civil lawsuits have been filed against the church around the world.. The artist paid a disproportionate and excessive price for her gesture. The way she was treated was terrible. It didn’t end her career, but it undeniably damaged it considerably. She never regretted her actions. In his 2021 memoir, ‘Rememberings: Scenes from my Complicated Life’, In addition to remembering the wave of abuse he received, he wrote: “Many people say or think that tearing up the Pope’s photo destroyed my career. That’s not how I feel. I feel that having a number one record is what destroyed my career and breaking the photo got me back on the right path. I I wasn’t born to be a pop star. You have to be a good girl for that. Don’t be too troublesome”.
The booing incident was edited from the original live album ‘The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration’, published in 1993. But in a remastered version from 2014, You can hear O’Connor singing ‘I believe in you’. The recording comes from rehearsals and sound checks. Your interpretation It is of great beauty. This is what the Madison audience missed that night when He didn’t give Sinéad the chance to sing… and there won’t be any more.