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I was living in France through the 1990s and not paying any attention to developments in 'pop' music, (the term has become quite embarrassing but I don't think anyone's yet come up with an alternative. It isn't all 'rock' music ...) so I missed the impact Sinéad O'Connor made with her first and second albums, The Lion and the Cobra and I do not want what I have not got and in particular the very successful single, Prince's song, 'Nothing compares 2 U'. The news that an Irish singer had torn up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Irish television may have got through to me and may have raised a flicker of interest but I probably assumed it was a publicity stunt.

I started taking her seriously late in the day, after my return to the UK. Thinking I should try to catch up with what was happening I bought the CD 100th Window by the English band, Massive Attack. It features three songs sung by her. I was immediately struck by the song 'Prayer for England'. Truth to tell, I think I misunderstood it. When she sang 'Let not another child be slain' I had in mind the children killed by the sanctions imposed on Iraq. 2003, the year in which 100th Window was released, was the year of the Iraq 'war' (difficult to dignify anything in which the odds are so heavily weighed on the side of the aggressor with the word 'war'). Re-reading the words I think she was talking about killings of children closer to home ('Let not another child be slain/Let not another search be made in vain'). Though I could still be right: 

'Jah calls the ones whose 
Beliefs kill children to 
Feel the love of you and be healed 
And may we all cry too 
For representing you 
So badly so badly'

(She uses the Rastafarian word 'Jah' to refer to God)

But the intensity of the singing (the Massive Attack backing is pretty good too) and the fact that it takes the form of a prayer and is sung with such sadness, raises it to a level of generalisation independent of whatever specific horror she may have had in mind. The song is about the relationship between humanity (I suppose I have to use the non-gender specific term) and God.