Here’s a clip featuring Pope-bating Catholic-Rastafarian Irish songstress Sinéad O’Connor with a 1994 album track “My Darling Child”. The clip also features one very cute kid!
This song is taken from her album Universal Mother, which I think contains some of her best work. Basically, it’s a concept album about motherhood, in all of the forms that it takes including ancient religious images of motherhood, and the political consequences of losing the idea of the Sacred Mother to the diametrically opposed forces of patriarchy. Sounds heavy, right?
Yet I think O’Connor is less strident than one might think on this record. She knows enough to put some of her humanity into it, instead of presenting us with an impersonal, raw feminist polemic. Therefore, the results reveal her passion, which always makes for great art.
This tune is as light and tender as any lullaby, a tribute to her son Jake and easily applied in terms of sentiment to any mother-child relationship. The sanctity of motherhood and the outrage toward the forces that undermine it is a popular theme in O’Connor’s work. And this song outlines what’s at stake.
Even if a lot of people don’t really think of her as the sensitive parent type, at least not before the images of a shaven-headed harridan overshadow the possibility, this side of her is certainly apparent in this song. And as such, we find out what really motivates her to lash out at cultural forces which tear down the relationships between women and their children.
The album was released two years after her unfortunate Saturday Night Live appearance on which she ill-advisedly tore up a picture of the Pope in front of millions of Catholics, many of whom live in New York where the show was broadcast. When booed off stage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert two weeks later at Madison Square Garden and reduced to tears, it was clear to me that O’Connor was not the one-dimensional cultural terrorist she’d been painted as by the media. She was just angry. Many people are angry when it comes to the negative influence of organized religion. But she learned the hard way that when you spit in the face of the powers that be, you often get slapped in the face for your troubles.
The fact she was slapped doesn’t make her wrong, of course – just a bit naïve, maybe. I think when Sinéad O’Connor became a Catholic priest later on in her career (albeit one on her own terms, working in her devotion to Rastfarianism at the same time…), it showed an interesting change in direction. She still got headlines for wacky behaviour, while leveraging a more subtle approach to the problem as she sees it. Instead of screaming her point of view in front of the walls of the citadel, she’s whispering it from inside.
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