O’Connor Pulls Out of Grammys : Irish Singer Attacks the Music Industry for ‘False, Materialistic Values’


Sinead O’Connor withdrew Friday from the upcoming Grammy Awards ceremony and competition to draw attention to what she feels are the “false and destructive materialistic values” of the music industry.

O’Connor, whose “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” was one of the most acclaimed albums of 1990, said she will not perform her hit single, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” on the Feb. 20 telecast in New York, as originally planned, and will not accept any award that might be voted her.

If O’Connor wins a Grammy during the ceremony, it would mark the first time in the 33-year history of the recording industry awards program that an artist has refused to accept the Grammy.


The Irish singer-songwriter was nominated in four Grammy categories, including best record of the year for “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The other nominations were for best female pop vocal, best video and best alternative music performance.

“As artists I believe our function is to express the feelings of the human race--to always speak the truth and never keep it hidden even though we are operating in a world which does not like the sound of the truth,” O’Connor, 24, declared in a letter sent Friday to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which sponsors the annual Grammy competition.

“I believe that our purpose is to inspire and, in some way, guide and heal the human race, of which we are all equal members.”

O’Connor, who now lives in Los Angeles, added in the letter that she feels the music Establishment doesn’t share this view.

“They acknowledge mostly the commercial side of art. They respect mostly material gain, since that is the main reason for their existence,” she wrote in the letter to the academy. “And they have created a great respect among artists for material gain--by honoring us and exalting us when we achieve it, ignoring for the most part those of us who have not.”

When informed of her decision Friday, Michael Greene, president of the recording academy, said, “We applaud that Sinead feels so strongly about these issues and believe that her convictions only add to the seriousness of her work. But she may be misguided.


“We respect her immensely as an artist. In fact, her first exposure on national television (in the United States) was on the Grammy show in 1989.

“But I’m afraid that Sinead may not be properly informed about the difference between the overtly commercial aspects of popularity contests as opposed to the Grammys, which are voted on by the creative community.”

In an interview Friday, O’Connor, said: “I am not criticizing the Grammys in particular,” she said. “I am criticizing the music industry. I am criticizing my peers . . . artists who are not doing their job.

“Thousands of children are starving to death every day . . . children are being beaten up because of problems in society . . . children are being sexually abused and emotionally abused, people are living in the streets. It’s not enough any more to just sit in you chair and say, ‘Yeah, it’s terrible.’

“Musicians are in a position to help heal this sickness, but I’d say 90% of the artists in the music business fail in that responsibility.”

O’Connor, who was at the center of a national controversy last year when she refused to allow the national anthem to be played before one of her concerts, said she is not calling for a boycott of the Grammys, but is trying to shake the consciousness of the music community.


“You must acknowledge if you are an artist that you are a role model for young people, whether you like it or not. If you don’t want to accept that responsibility, you shouldn’t be an artist. With power comes responsibility.

“The industry, including awards shows, sends out the message that selling more records is good rather than telling the truth.

“Honoring commercial success is the obvious purpose of the American Music Awards telecast, but it’s also the intent of the Grammys as well.

“I think if artists were to be awarded for what they had achieved in so far as telling the truth . . . as far as healing the human race, then I’d say Van Morrison or Ice Cube, people like that should be honored.”

In the letter to the academy, O’Connor wrote, “How can we communicate with and help the human race when we have allowed ourselves to be taken out of the world and placed above it?

“We are allowing ourselves to be portrayed as being in some way more important, more special than the very people we are supposed to be helping--by the way we dress, by the cars we travel in, by the ‘otherworldiness’ of our shows and by a lot of what we say in our music.”


In the interview, O’Connor, added, “If the music industry is the microcosm and the world is the macrocosm, the same reasons why this world is now at war and the same reasons why this world abuses its children and the same reasons why people are homeless and are starving . . are the same reasons that the music industry will gather in Radio City Music Hall for the Grammy ceremonies.

“How can we sit there hoping to win a Grammy when we have failed in our duty as artists to speak the truth. And as a result, humanity is destroying itself. I feel humanity is on the brink of destruction because we do not care about each other. All we care about is material success. And we have stepped over and ignored everything that was ever important to us in order to achieve it.”

O’Connor participated in the MTV Awards show last summer in Los Angeles and attended the American Music Awards ceremony on Monday, but said Friday that she wouldn’t attend either of them in the future.

“I signed my record deal when I was 17 and it has taken me this time to gather enough information and mull it over and reach a conclusion--and this action represents my decision. I could not have reached the decision without being part of the things I am now talking about.” Chuck Philips contributed to this story.