LONDON - Throngs of fans lined the streets of Sinead O’Connor’s former hometown in Ireland to bid farewell to the gifted singer as her funeral procession passed by Tuesday following a private memorial service.
A vintage VW camper van with rooftop speakers blasting Bob Marley's song "Natural Mystic" led a hearse at walking pace through a thick crowd of admirers along the waterfront in Bray. O'Connor said she loved Marley's music.
Devotees of O'Connor's singing and those touched by her sometimes-troubled life tossed roses and other flowers on the hearse.
A group that had been waiting for well over an hour outside O'Connor's former home, singing her songs at times, began to clap as four police officers on motorcycles leading the cortege approached and the procession came to a halt.
They snapped photos through the windows of the hearse where her coffin was dwarfed by a pile of blue hydrangeas and pink roses.
Singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor performs on stage at Vogue Theatre on February 01, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)
Ruth O’Shea, who had come to the coastal town of Bray south of Dublin with her two daughters, became teary as she spoke of O'Connor's significance, saying she had "meant the world" to her.
"She was so rebellious and empowering and inspiring, and my mother hated me listening to her music," O'Shea said. "She was just brilliant. Brilliant — I loved her, and then the kids, I suppose by osmosis because I played her when they were both growing up, they’d go, ‘Oh God, mom’s listening to Sinead O’Connor, she’s obviously had a rough day.’ She just gave me hope. And I just loved her, I loved her."
O’Connor, 56, was found unresponsive at her London home on July 26. Police have not shared a cause of death, though they said her death was not suspicious.
O'Connor's family had invited the public to pay their respects during the funeral procession.
"Sinead loved living in Bray and the people in it," her family said in a statement. "With this procession, her family would like to acknowledge the outpouring of love for her from the people of Wicklow (county) and beyond, since she left ... to go to another place."
Fans tucked handwritten notes and flowers behind a chain wrapped around a granite post at the entrance to her former home, thanking her for sharing her voice and her music. One sign listed causes that the singer had expressed support for, including welcoming refugees.
"Thanks for your short special life," one note read. "Gone too soon."
O'Connor, a multi-octave mezzo soprano of extraordinary emotional range who was recognizable by her shaved head, began her career singing on the streets of Dublin and soon rose to international fame.
She became a sensation in 1990 with her cover of Prince’s ballad "Nothing Compares 2 U," which topped charts from Europe to Australia.
She was a critic of the Roman Catholic Church well before allegations of sexual abuse were widely reported. She made headlines in October 1992 when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II while appearing on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" and denounced the church as the enemy.
She was public about her struggles with mental illness. When her teenage son Shane died by suicide last year, O’Connor tweeted there was "no point living without him" and she was soon hospitalized. Her final tweet, sent July 17, read "For all mothers of Suicided children," and linked to a Tibetan compassion mantra.
Since her death, celebrities have paid tribute to her, and ordinary people have shared acts of kindness she performed.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story includes discussion of suicide. The U.S. suicide and crisis lifeline is available by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat at 988lifeline.org. In the U.K., the Samaritans can be reached at 116 123.