Sinéad O'Connor has never been one to shy away from speaking her mind, especially on issues close to her heart. For those that don't remember it or have never come across the story, the Nothing Compares 2 U singer once caused a stir when she appeared on Saturday Night Live! in October 1992 as a musical guest.
During her appearance, she sung an acappella version of Bob Marley's 'War,' intended as a protest against sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, changing the lyrics to reflect child abuse rather than racism. During rehearsals she held up a photo of a refugee child, but during the actual performance, she presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera as she sung the word "evil," then tore the photo to pieces as she said "fight the real enemy," throwing the pieces towards the camera.
During his opening monologue the following week, Catholic-raised host Joe Pesci held up a photo of the pope, saying he taped it back together to huge applause. He also said that if he was on the previous week, "I would have gave her such a smack."
NBC still declines to rebroadcast O'Connor's performance, despite the fact that there have now been thousands of well-documented child abuse cases proving her accusation. In 2001, nine years after the controversial SNL moment, the pope would issue an apology, acknowledging that there was abuse within the church as a "profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Jesus Christ."
Yet that's not all there is to the story, as writer Audra Williams pointed out in a widely-shared Twitter thread this week. Explaining how in the weeks following the 26-year-old O'Connor's SNL appearance, Frank Sinatra had said he wanted to "kick her ass" and producer Jonathan King said she "needed a spanking," it was actor and musician Kris Kristofferson who supported her during a low moment.
Ten days later, O'Connor played at Madison Square Gardens, but as soon as she got to the microphone, the audience booed and jeered her, leaving her feeling sick and uncertain what to do. That's when Kristofferson, who was also at the event, was told by the organisers to remove her from the stage.
"He instead went out and put his arm around her and checked in on her and stayed until she'd steadied herself and was ready to perform," Williams writes. "When she came off stage, he wrapped her in a bear hug."
Kristofferson later spoke about his version of the events in an interview on Irish TV, in which he said:
"Sinead had just recently on Saturday Night Live torn up a picture of the Pope, in a gesture that I thought was very misunderstood. And she came out and got booed. They told me to go get her off the stage and I said 'I'm not about to do that'.
"I went out and I said 'Don't let the bastards get you down'. She said 'I'm not down' and she sang. It was very courageous. It just seemed wrong to me, booing that little girl out there. But she's always had courage."
As Williams explained, Kristofferson later covered his feelings about O'Connor on his 2009 album Closer to the Bone, with the song Sister Sinead.
Williams signed off saying that she was "so happy this story is resonating with and being shared by so many people," and that the actions of both O'Connor and Kristofferson "has been a source of comfort and strength since I was 16."