Cristina’s Sunday Tune & Tale
‘This Is To Mother You’ by Sinead O’Connor
written by: Cristina Munoz
It’s no secret Irish songstress Sinead O’Connor is the musical love of my life. So much so if I could only take one album with me to a deserted island it would be her magnificently brilliant debut ‘The Lion & The Cobra’ as it’s how and why I fell permanently in love with her music in the first place.
This was way back in 1987 and at the time I was a lonely, confused, angry eighteen year old girl only a couple of years younger than O’Connor.
I felt so different from all the other girls at my Catholic Girls High School including my friends.
Until one fateful night while I was up late studying listening to my favourite indie radio station 3RRR I heard Sinead O’Connor’s extraordinary voice for the first time. When her epic track ‘Troy’ began blasting through my boom box stereo speakers I immediately stopped studying, turned up the volume and listened to her sing as if hearing music for the very first time.
The next day, after hearing one song, knowing absolutely zilch about her I rushed out to buy her debut album on tape and listened to it so much I wore it out and had to buy another copy.
Since then, for over a quarter of a century Sinead O’Connor has written, recorded and released one masterpiece of an album after another. Ten albums so far, along with many collaborations and covers forming the spine of the soundtrack of my life which have been literally imprinted into my psyche.
It’s her voice I usually hear in the background whenever I think of any significant moment in my life as I grew up listening to her music which also gave me much needed strength whenever I needed it most.
It’s as if she’s a warrior angel on this earth gifted with a powerful healing voice which nourishes and comforts my soul the most.
I respect her honesty, integrity, intensity, courage, intelligence, vulnerability and fierce passion which is in every note she sings and lyric she writes.
Sinead O’Connor inspires me, so much so she is the only singer who has appeared in my dreams twice so far throughout my life like some sort of guardian angel.
Speaking of Angels often when I listen to Sinead’s transcendent work it feels like walking into her musical world, and feeling divinity within.
There are also those extremely rare, bordering on mystical songs which arrive into your life when you’re stumbling through a dark dark time to help you get through it like a gift. ‘This Is To Mother You’ is well and truly one such song for me along with many others also by O’Connor.
Which is why around this time of year I always find myself needing to listen to ‘This Is To Mother You’ as on March 30th, 1994 my mother died after a five month battle with liver cancer while I was holding her hand. It’s one of those critical moments in life you never forget as it changes you completely in an instant.
‘This Is To Mother You’ is from the EP ‘Gospel Oak’ which sold 250,000 copies worldwide and was released by Sinead O’Connor in 1997, only there are now two versions of the song as in 2009 Sinead O’Connor who has always been an advocate for abused children donated and ended up joining forces with GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services) member Mary J Blige and aspiring singer Martha B to record another version of her song of survival to bring awareness to sex trafficking of American girls.
I listened to the original version when I started suffering from “delayed grief” so it could not have arrived at a better time. It’s the song I listen to whenever I’m missing my mother and after listening to it again a couple of years later I had my very first dream featuring Sinead O’Connor.
I was thirty-one years old working for a major Australian telecommunications company in Melbourne at the time, while writing in my spare time.
In the dream I found myself walking down Bourke Street at lunch time, only the main city street which usually would be choking with people at that hour on such a sunny day was completely empty.
It felt like the whole city had been evacuated and I was the only soul left.
I wasn’t scared as even in the dream I knew this was just a dream so I kept calmly walking down Bourke Street towards the Bourke Street Mall when I heard someone else’s footsteps coming from ahead of me.
Looking up I could see it was a woman walking towards me though I couldn’t make out who she was even though we were the only two people around.
We both kept walking towards each other until as I got closer she stopped walking and stood still in the middle of the pavement so I stopped as well. I still couldn’t tell who she was but could see her motioning to me to hurry up and get over to her.
When I caught up with her I stood right in front of her stunned as the smiling woman who was just a tiny bit taller than me was Sinead O’Connor.
She said, “Hi Cristina”, smiling wider at me while I stared back at her mute.
She looked exactly how she did in her ‘Chiquita’ video dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt while I was in a business suit.
She looked amused then said, “Yes it’s me Cristina, so come on, snap out of it I’m taking you to lunch.”
The next thing I knew we were suddenly in her kitchen, the exact same cute kitchen in her ‘Chiquita’ video and on the stove she had a huge stainless steel pot of fresh crabs boiling.
I sat down at the exact same kitchen table in the video while Sinead O’Connor brought over the pot brimming with cooked crabs over to the table, plopping it down grandly with a huge grin.
We chatted like best friends while eating those messy crabs, squeezing lemon juice, snapping claws together and sucking the sweet meat out of them. Crab juice kept spurting everywhere with each crack making us both laugh.
Once we finished the crabs she made me a coffee and slid it over to me the exact same way she does at the end of her ‘Chiquita’ video and it hit me I just had lunch with Sinead O’Connor and it was as if she could read my mind as she said, “Yes Cristina, it really is me. You can touch my face if you want.” and I did then woke up.
The dream was so realistic I’ve never forgotten it.
It was like she arrived to give me a break from beating myself up as I was still holding a lot of guilt about how I handled things after my mother died which pretty much left me orphaned at twenty five with a eighteen year old younger brother to look after.
I also blamed myself for my mother getting cancer in the first place as I believed telling her I was gay when I knew she wouldn’t be okay about it caused the cancer to grow during the ten months we barely spoke after I came out to her. My mother turning up in another dream not long later helped me fully let go of that guilt but that’s another tale for another time.
The first time I heard ‘This Is To Mother You’ was such an emotional experience because of the guilt I was still holding combined with the grief I cried all the way through it.
Any motherless daughter or son whose either lost their mother because she died, or because they have never truly experienced a mother’s love at all will relate to this exquisitely beautiful song of survival as it strikes at the emotional core of grief.
Part of why it’s so powerful is because Sinead O’Connor has a gift for representing some one or something else other than herself in some of her songs like an actor performing a role. She portrays the Holy Spirit in ‘Take Off Your Shoes’ to a junkie in ‘Big Bunch Of Junkie Lies’.
In ‘This Is To Mother You’ it feels like she has taken on the persona of the ‘Universal Mother’ literally pouring out a mother’s unconditional love like one long extended warm hug. She breathes tenderness and life into every single word.
The lyrics to the first two verses are like a gentle soothing lullaby…
This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you
This is to be with you
To hold you and to kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn’t do
Which is to mother you
Her extraordinary voice is almost a whisper as if she’s cradling a child in her arms making him or her feel safe and very loved. The tone of her vocals is so full of unconditional love when I first heard her sing these lyrics tears immediately started streaming down my face.
Especially with these three lines…
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn’t do
Which is to mother you
…as Sinead O’Connor also has a gift for getting straight to the truth with devastating clarity.
In these few simple yet powerful lines she speaks directly to anyone who like her had a mother who didn’t know how to mother them the way a mother should at all, though you could just as easily replace the word ‘mother’ with ‘father’ whichever word relates as anyone who is a survivor of child abuse like myself or any kind of abuse or childhood trauma will relate, especially when she sings this next verse…
All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the ‘wrong’ things you have done
I will take from you when I come
All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss, yes
I will give you tenderness
When I heard this verse I completely lost it. I couldn’t help myself. It’s in the fully emotive way she lifts her voice and delivers these powerful lyrics with such honest intensity, determination and strength all I could do was cry.
It reminded me of how my mother is the sole reason why I didn’t end up in prison, dead by twenty, a serial killer or insane as even though my father didn’t know how to be a father to me, thankfully I had one parent who most of the time did and that’s all it takes.
In these lyrics…
For child I am so glad I’ve found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see me
I saw you
…her joyous voice swells with happiness as well as unconditional love as if she’s channeling the ‘Universal Mother’ herself, which also happens to be the title of one of her albums.
Now it’s time for a tale as it was on my bucket list to see Sinead O’Connor sing live.
I was beginning to think I may have to travel to Europe until after waiting twenty years she finally arrived in Australia for her ‘Universal Mother’ tour.
My best friend Maria, who I’ve known since my early twenties, and I went to see her together at The Palais in St Kilda as I was the one who got her into Sinead O’Connor’s music when we lived together for awhile during my mid twenties.
It’s one thing to listen to O’Connor in the comfort of your own home and quite another to witness her sing live and have her extraordinary voice for real be all over and around you. It surpassed my expectations.
I remember when she started singing ‘Three Babies’ which is one of my favourite songs the whole venue became silent as her voice captivated everyone. Tears were streaming down Maria’s face and no doubt everyone else’s there.
After she finished you could hear a pin drop it was so quiet until a minute later the entire venue of people as if waking up from a trance erupted into applause.
If you ever get the opportunity to see Sinead O’Connor sing live do so as you’ll walk out of the venue knowing you have just finished listening to one of the greatest singers alive on the planet today.
The simple truth is I’ll never be able to fully convey what her music means to me, so much so it hurts whenever I think she may never record another album again, and sometimes it worries me she may not fully understand how many countless people all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds her music has effected, impacted, healed, comforted, mothered, nurtured and inspired.
This is part of what inspired me to get down a poem about Sinead O’Connor called Wounded Angel which was published here at Spillwords last year.
Sinead O’Connor made life less lonely for me since I was a teenager and the thought we will never hear another new song is heartbreaking for the world, though I have faith she will once again return like a pheniox from the flames to continue doing what she was put on this earth to do which is make music and sing in only the way she can.
I hope this ‘Cristina’s Sunday Tune & Tale’ inspires you to listen to her prolific body of work and that doing so if you haven’t already inspires and enriches your life as much as it has mine so, for now let’s begin with the original ‘This Is To Mother You’.
The video for it includes clips from some of her other main videos for various other hit singles.
Here you go…
Original ‘This Is To Mother You’ video
Sinead O’Connor & Mary J Blige & Martha B – GEMS Version of ‘This Is To Mother You’
Video about the GEMS charity recording
Other Recommended Stand Out Sinead O’Connor Tune’s – Heroine, Troy, Just Like U Said It Would B, Jerusalem, Put Your Hands On Me, Drink Before The War, Nothing Compares 2 U, Three Babies, Stretched On Your Grave, Last Day Of Our Acquaintance, and I could go on and on. Instead I have 74 of my favourite Sinead O’Connor tracks loaded up on my Spotify ‘Sound Of Only Sinead O’Connor’ playlist you’re welcome to follow and listen to at Spotify
Recommended Sinead O’Connor Albums & EP’s – The Lion and the Cobra, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, Am I Not Your Girl?, Universal Mother, Faith and Courage, Sean-Nós Nua, Throw Down Your Arms, Theology, How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss
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