Sinead O'Connor, the oft controversial Irish singer, announced yesterday that she is withdrawing from the Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 20 in New York, because of what she thinks are the "false and destructive materialistic values" of the music industry. In a letter to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, O'Connor, 24, said she will not perform her single "Nothing Compares 2 U" on the Grammy telecast as planned, and will not accept any award she might win. The hit, written by Prince, is the favorite for Best Record of the Year. If she were to win, it would be the first time in the 33-year history of the awards that an artist has refused to accept.

O'Connor, recognizable by her shaved head, has frequently criticized the music industry and was at the center of a controversy last year when she refused to allow the national anthem to be played before one of her concerts. Saying in her letter that it's a musician's responsibility to "inspire and, in some way, guide and heal the human race," she accused the industry of acknowledging "mostly the commercial side of art." When informed of her decision yesterday, Michael Greene, president of the recording academy, said, "We applaud that Sinead feels so strongly about these issues, 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."

O'Connor, who is nominated for four Grammys, said she is not calling for a boycott of the show, but is trying to shake the consciousness of the music community.

Jesse Jackson Volunteers

Jesse Jackson, the District's shadow senator, is again offering his services as an international mediator. During a speaking engagement in Chicago Thursday, Jackson volunteered to meet with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of Allied prisoners of war. "I will do whatever I can to seek the release of the POWs, up to and including going there if the opportunity presents itself," he said. In giving what he called his own State of the Union address, the two-time presidential candidate said "this war will be longer than expected, bloodier than expected and more costly than expected," and that "if there is any way to stop this slaughter, we must find a way." Jackson also said he had met with the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations on Monday and asked that Saddam honor the Geneva Convention and consider releasing the prisoners as a step toward peace. The ambassador reportedly promised the message would reach Saddam.

Returning From Israel

Three performers who interrupted their schedules to be in Israel during its time of crisis have returned to the United States. Comedian Jackie Mason, who came back to his one-man Broadway show, said, "I went there to cheer them up and they ended up cheering me. I was the one falling apart." New York Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta returned reluctantly, and said he hopes to visit again later this month to lead a concert. "Everybody is hungry for music," Mehta said. Actor Topol, starring in a Broadway revival of "Fiddler on the Roof," stayed with his family in his house in Tel Aviv for a week before deciding it was all right to return to New York. "The days are not so bad," he said. "It's when the evening comes -- it is at this time when it becomes quite scary."

Gene Autry Revisited

Singing cowboy Gene Autry this week was presented with a recently discovered letter written in 1938 saying he had no future in Hollywood. The letter, found in the archives of Republic Pictures, was written by producer Al Levoy, and said the young Autry had wasted his time taking an acting course and that he needed darker makeup to "give him the appearance of virility." Russell Goldsmith, chairman of Republic Pictures, donated the letter to the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum Thursday in Los Angeles.

"A lot of that is true," the 83-year-old Autry admitted. "I got better as I went along. I couldn't get any worse." Autry went on to become one of Republic's biggest stars. He starred in 93 motion pictures, including "South of the Border" and "Riders in the Sky."