Sinead's Playlist

The Playlist

Welcome to our all-new Playlist feature. Every week, we get some unsuspecting musician to make their dream playlist. To kick things off, Sinead O'Connor marks the release of her ninth album, Theology, with a retrospective account of the music that has influenced and impressed her over her life.

Monday June 11, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


Fool For You, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, from the album This Is My County
This is my favourite track of all time, a flawless love song. The lyrics are incredible, but the band are just outrageous. There's an instrumental section halfway through that sounds like clowns, as if Mayfield is trying to show just how much this woman is making a fool out of him. I did a cover of his song We People Who Are Darker Than Blue on my new album Theology. I'm just such a fan of Curtis Mayfield. He has a lone wolf quality that I admire. He's a mysterious guy, very soulful and quiet.

Precious Angel, Bob Dylan, from the album Slow Train Coming
Slow Train Coming is my favourite album of all time. My brother came home with it when I was about 11, and it completely changed the course of my life as far as I was concerned. Precious Angel is a religious song, but obscurely so, where a man is giving spiritual guidance to his girlfriend. It's religious teaching in a clever way, because he parallels it by making it also a simple love song. It's influenced my songwriting on the record I'm about to put out: both are theological as opposed to religious. Ever since hearing it, I wanted to make my own version of what that record was doing. Baby, Stop Crying, Bob Dylan, from the album Street Legal In the song, Dylan is talking about this girl who had a terrible life before she met him. She's been dumped and had her heart broken, and she won't stop crying. But it's also about how Dylan's gonna lose his fucking mind if she doesn't stop crying. It's a sweet and gentle song, the first lines are: "You been down to the bottom with a bad man, but you're back where you belong." But then the next line is "Go get me my pistol." So it's sweet but it's witty too. If you listen to how he sings, you can hear in his voice how much his head's gonna pop she doesn't shut up. He's great at that kind of thing. He doesn't try to be nice.

Beside You, Van Morrison, from the album TB Sheets
Beside You is Morrison talking to his girlfriend, but you wouldn't realise that until the end. There are many versions of this song but the TB Sheets version is my personal favourite. It's typical of his style lyrically, a stream of consciousness. He's a great storyteller - this one starts with: "Little Jimmy's gone way out of the backstreet, out of the window through the fallin' rain", and it soon becomes very hypnotic. Really, he's telling her that a million things might happen and a long time might pass but he'll always be there beside her. The line I never forget is: "The dynamo of your smile reflects the barefoot virgin child." I never heard Van until I was 18 and I'd moved to London and this guy from a record company gave me his records. The thing I like about his early stuff is that they only have two chords, but you wouldn't know it because of how he plays and his voice.

Louisiana 1927, Aaron Neville, from the album Warm Your Heart (originally written and recorded by Randy Newman)
The first time I heard this song was after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when Neville performed it for the Concert For Hurricane Relief, which I saw on CNN. It was written about 1927 when the levees blew and New Orleans was desecrated. It talks about how President Coolidge went down to see what had gone but that nothing was done to help these poor people. The chorus kills me every time I hear it: "Lousiana, Lousiana, they're trying to wash us away." He sings it so beautifully, and of course it's relevant to what happened in 2005. There still exists the belief that Bush didn't give a shit because it was black people who were affected. Well, that's what this song is about.

Tell It Like It Is, Aaron Neville from the album Tell It Like It Is
In the same way that Harvey Keitel was like a typical woman character in The Piano, in terms of his needs, in this song the character's vulnerable like you expect a woman to be. Neville's asking his lover to stop messing him around and say how she really feels. I think men are better when it comes to expressing romantic emotions in their songwriting. Perhaps because it's something men find hard to do and they rarely do it and therefore when the male artists do it, it's a huge thing to them. If you're an artist or musician you are by nature an extremely sensitive person and so you feel things more than most men. Girls' love songs tend to be corny, which is why I've never tried to write a love song. Stuff like Leanne Rimes or Toni Braxton, I can't bear it. It helps that Neville is this massive bloke who has this sweet, gentle voice. I saw him live once and I cried all the way through the show.

She Thinks I Still Care, George Jones, from the album Your Tender Years
The title is sort of paradoxical, because really it's clear he still cares. He sings about how - just because he goes to all the same old places, dials her number by mistake, talks about her everywhere he goe - she thinks he still cares. Where would she get such an idea? Jones is a real misery guts. In one of his songs, he takes you on a tour of his empty house now the woman has gone: here's the chair I used to sit in when she hugged me, here's the room where our baby used to cry... It's really heart-wrenching. He's obviously had a lousy love life. He's also wildly popular in the States. I saw him on a Johnny Cash tribute show where they had Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and Eric Clapton, or someone like that. And every time George Jones opened his mouth the audience went nuclear!

Damien Dempsey, Factories, from the album Seize The Day
This is one of the saddest songs I've ever heard. Damien's a friend of mine and he won't sing the song live because he's afraid of crying his eyes out. It's the story of his own childhood in the poverty stricken areas of Dublin. He sings about "factories, trains and house, the playground of my youth". One line goes: "I'm awoken by a handbrake turn outside, I know lads who died. That sound chills me inside still." It's terribly sad, it's about his mother leaving and the poverty of his childhood, a situation that a lot of people in Dublin grew up in. Their playgrounds literally were factories. It's a great song and I don't find it too hard to listen to, but you have to listen to it when you're feeling happy. If you listen to it when you're miserable it will bring you down. It's a jewel in songwriting, and he's the best male singer I've ever heard in my life. He's writing songs that 100 years from now will be thought of as traditional Irish songs. He makes Shane McGowan look like Mickey Mouse- and I love Shane's work, but I'm just trying to illustrate how brilliant this guy is. (Not available from iTunes.)

Ride Natty Ride, Bob Marley & The Wailers, from the album Survival
It's a Rastafarian hymn, and it's also my funeral song. It really deals with death and how you'll be riding through the sky once you're gone. I imagine Marley wrote it around the time he was dying, perhaps to reassure himself. It's a very defiant song, lots about chariots and fire, and really the message is: people might try to put you down spiritually but your spirit still rides through the sky regardless.

Georgia On My Mind, Ray Charles, from the album World Of Ray
What can you say, really, it has to be Ray Charles. The way he sings it: that's where he's from and it's in his blood. Everything that happened to him growing up in Georgia... the poor fucker went through some serious stuff and you can hear that when he sings it. He puts everything into the vocal and it's remarkable.

God Save The Queen, Sex Pistols, from the album Never Mind The Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols
It's so bold and noisy. When it came out, I saw it on TV. and it was so naughty and the Pistols were so filthy and disgusting. I don't listen to it now but when I was a teenager I didn't really listen to anything else but Never Mind The Bollocks. I went through a serious punk phase back then.

Why Worry? Israel Vibration, from the album The Same Song
What I like about Rastas is that they use music as a priesthood. This song is pretty simple in its message - it says why worry when you can pray? It's very mischievous, not serious in a traditional hymn sense. There's something almost outrageous in the way they pray. Also, the guys in the band sing the effects as opposed to using musical instruments, and it sounds amazing.

As told to Rosie Swash