In 1992, when Sinéad O'Connor transformed Marley's key track 'War' to an acapella plea for the world to recognise institutional child abuse in the Catholic Church - on the rather surprising platform of SNL - the performance almost 'derailed her career' to use the common assessment of the time (and Internet since).
All these years later, leaving aside all the fuss and carry-on of the time among many forgotten types, we can appreciate this act as a supremely courageous gesture as well as a sublime musical performance, just on the basis of her voice, her conviction, alone. For me this is bravery incarnate, and when you know something of O'Connor's childhood, the fact that she could speak out like this is inspirational.
O'Connor was one of those rare prodigies, having written 'Troy'
when she was a teenager. The song makes reference to lines from Yeats' 'No Second Troy' ('Why, what could she have done being what she is?/Was there another Troy for her to burn?').
One of her loveliest songs, while still being one of her most political - even though that word feels leaden in this context, as it is so much 'more' than this - is 'Black boys on mopeds'; a song that is also a very touching representation of motherhood. For me this song shows the value of stepping past the categories we find ourselves in and the value of empathy that crosses racial and other categories. O'Connor sings of wanting to protect 'her boy' while singing of the suffering of 'black boys' shot by the police; they are one and the same.
The song was inspired by the death of Colin Roach who died from a gunshot wound inside Stoke Newington police station in London, in 1983. From wiks:
The French often talk about being curious and how this is a valuable quality, more and more I think it is the essential quality - not love, whatever that might mean for you, that's too individual - but curiosity and openness to the experience of others. (And yet all over the place, perhaps particularly in progressive spaces, I see people closing in, seeking some kind of purity of experience based on identity. This seems so misguided ... nothing is, or can be, pure).