Born on December 25, 1954, in Aberdeen, Scotland; daughter of a shipyard worker and a cook; married Radha Raman, 1984; divorced, 1985; married Uri Fruchtman (a filmmaker), 1987; children: Daniel (deceased), Lola, Tali. Education: Studied flute, piano, and harpsichord at Royal Academy of Music, London, England, for three years. Addresses: Record company--J-Records, 745 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10151, website: http://www.jrecords.com. Website--Annie Lennox Official Website: http://www.alennox.net.
She has appeared on stage as a blonde glamour queen, a sideburned Elvis imitator, and a dominatrix Minnie Mouse; but unlike some pop stars who hide a lack of talent behind their controversial costuming, Annie Lennox is also a gifted and powerful sin ger. The Scottish-born, classically trained performer first gained national attention in the duo the Eurythmics, one of the most influential pop acts of the 1980s. Together with partner Dave Stewart, Lennox created an eerie, brooding music that embraced p assion and detachment, optimism and despair. After the demise of the Eurythmics, Lennox proved her talent as a solo performer with the platinum-selling albums Diva and Medusa. Although her stage presen ce is commanding, the often-contradictory Lennox describes herself as a retiring person, whose ultimate goal is to drop out of the public eye. "There's so much I haven't done," Terry Smith quoted her as saying in People. "I'd li ke to paint. I'd like to study philosophy. I'd like to bake."
Lennox has traveled a long road to fame and fortune. She grew up in the port city of Aberdeen, Scotland, where her family lived in a working-class neighborhood. Her father, a shipyard worker, loved music and was a talented bagpipe player. He encoura ged his daughter to study flute and piano, and by the age of 17, she had won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. Her three years there were not happy ones, however. "I hated it," she was quoted as saying in R olling Stone, and to a Spin contributor, she confided, "All the boys were gay and all the girls thought they were Maria Callas." In her London flat, she worked on her own compositions and singing, and explored new mus ical territory. She discovered the work of two musicians who would greatly influence her: Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder. She told Barbara Pepe in Ms. that she aspired to "that depth of subtlety and profound statement through m usic" such as that created by Wonder. Lennox also continued to listen to the Scottish folk songs she'd loved since childhood.
Three days before her final exams at the Academy, Lennox suddenly walked out, never to return. For the next few years, she worked a series of odd jobs--mostly waitressing--while singing with numerous groups, none of them well known. By 197 7, she was close to abandoning her dreams of making it as a singer-songwriter; instead, she planned to start a career as a music teacher. Just before she made that change, however, a man named Dave Stewart came into the London restaurant where Lennox was working.
Stewart was another struggling musician, whose experience ranged from medieval music to the songs of Bob Dylan. Dedicating himself to music at the age of 15, he had succeeded in working with several moderately successful groups, but his career stall ed after problems with drugs and a serious automobile accident. At the time he met Lennox, he and a singer-songwriter named Peet Coombs were trying to find work in London. There was instant chemistry between Lennox and Stewart, and she invited the two men back to her apartment and began to play for them on her wooden harmonium. "She was straight from classical," Stewart recalled to Rolling Stone. "She didn't know anything about pop groups. But I heard her sing and we started cel ebrating. Then we went out to this club, and from that moment on, Annie and I lived together, and we made music together, for about four years."
With Coombs, Lennox and Stewart started a group called Catch, later renamed the Tourists. The Tourists were fairly successful in some respects, recording three albums and touring all over the world. They made no money, however, and their only big hi t was a 1979 remake of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be with You." Strangely enough, that one hit led to the demise of the Tourists. Critics savaged them, believing that the group had sold out to the oldies market. Disillusioned and embroiled in dis putes with their recording label, they disbanded in 1980.
The romantic relationship between Stewart and Lennox was also crumbling, and they took up separate residences at about the same time that the Tourists ceased to exist. They agreed that their musical relationship was as intense as ever, however, and they remained good friends; accordingly, they made a fresh start as a duo. They named themselves the Eurythmics and recorded their first album in a West German studio. Their album titled In the Garden was never released in the U nited States and failed to do much on the English charts. Stewart had undergone lung surgery at the time of its release and was unable to promote the album.
Unhappy with their management, Lennox and Stewart next decided to create their own recording studio. It was first housed in an attic warehouse, but eventually moved to a sixteenth-century church in London. There, Stewart began experimenting with unu sual musical sounds and a wide variety of instruments and synthesizer techniques. One day, after a nasty argument, the pair was working in their studio, not speaking to each other. Stewart began programming a drum rhythm into his synthesizer, and the musi c he produced caught Lennox's ear. Words came to her and she began to sing, and their first top ten hit was born. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" became the title track to their second album, released in 1983, and was the song that shot the Eurythmics t o international celebrity. The sound bore the mark of New Wave and funk influences, and Lennox's vocals were brooding and piercing. Stewart explained to Stephen Holden in the New York Times, "In our music we like to have the sen se of two things battling at once. You have to have something that sounds nice on the surface, but underneath there's an ominous side." "Sweet Dreams" embodied this philosophy.
Touch, released in 1984, yielded more hit singles, including "Here Comes the Rain Again" and "Right by Your Side." That was also the year Lennox shocked many with her appearance at the Grammy Awards. Through videos, she ha d become known for her short, orange-dyed hair--an onstage look she had adopted after an audience member had snatched a long, black wig from her head at a London nightclub. At the Grammys, she walked onstage to sing "Sweet Dreams" dressed as Elvis Pr esley, complete with sideburns. Lennox has explained that her transvestitism, often compared to that of David Bowie, is simply a reaction to the tacky, sex-kitten image so frequently exploited by female singers. Although she established herself with a man nish look, she also explored glamorous, more typically feminine presentations, and was named one of the "Ten Most Beautiful Women in the World" by Playboy magazine in 1983.
Lennox had long been troubled by serious bouts of depression. In 1984, she also developed a recurring problem with her vocal cords, forcing her to rest her voice as much as possible. While in Germany on a world tour, she met Radha Raman, a German ma n attached to the Hare Krishna movement. He and a group of other Krishnas served the Eurythmics a special vegetarian dinner and gave Lennox a homeopathic cure for her throat, then began accompanying the duo through Europe. In New York the following year, Lennox and Raman were married, but the union lasted just 14 months.
Despite her personal problems, Lennox's creativity was at a high point. Known at first for her cold, detached sound, the Eurythmics' music demonstrated more soul with each album they released. Be Yourself Tonight featured Lennox holding her own in a duet with Aretha Franklin in the feminist anthem "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves." David Gates, writing in Esquire, named Lennox "one of the great white soul singers: out of Aretha by way of such Seventies disco divas as Donna Summer." Touch and Be Yourself Tonight both went platinum, but although critics continued to laud the Eurythmics' work, their popularity began to decline after 1985.
"Eurythmics was a very changeable beast," Lennox was quoted as saying in a Rolling Stone article by David Sinclair, "and in America, when things change too much, they don't know what to make of it. Because one minute they might get 'Would I Lie to You?'--which they can put in an R&B slot or heavy rock--and then we'd do another song, like 'Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)' [from Savage], which was a lot different, and they didn't quit e know how to deal with us." Lennox's partnership with Stewart was also deteriorating, and although the duo never officially disbanded, after their 1990 tour, Lennox "simply went home to her London townhouse, got pregnant [with second husband, filmmaker U ri Fruchtman, whom she married in 1987], and began writing songs by herself for the first time since hooking up with Stewart," according to Gates.
Regarding the end of the Eurythmics, Lennox said to Sinclair: "Who cares if a group is together or not? Does it matter? To me, making a big, elaborate statement like 'We have broken up'--we never discussed it. We haven't written it down in bloo d or ink....[But] I don't want to go back. I don't want to retread. I was there for ten years. Why should I go back? It would be like an emotional regression." Her first solo album was the 1992 release Diva, described by Gates a s "a stylized self-portrait, a moody piece of work that can fasten onto and color a few months of your life." Discussing her work on the album with Gates, Lennox remarked on the difficulties of working without her former partner. Despite the frictions bet ween them, he had always given her a great deal of encouragement and constructive criticism. "I was the one wandering around saying, 'Never, never, never,'" she recalled, "and he'd be going, 'Oh come on, this is great.'"
"Fortunately, she thought positively enough to get the job done," Gates related, "but not so positively as to screw up what could turn out to be one of the canonical soundtracks to the century's end game." A Nation reviewe r offered a less enthusiastic assessment of Diva, dismissing it as "pricey radio-ready schlock" even while admitting that the singer's "vocal instrument is still awesome and outsized." Lennox's fans showed what they thought of h er solo effort by buying enough copies to make it go platinum, even though she refused to tour to support the album--partly because of her continuing throat problems, but mostly because of her commitment to her daughter Lola, then an infant. "I don't want to have my child trailing around with me," she asserted to Gates. "It's just unfair."
That decision was indicative of the great change that Lennox's second marriage had worked in her life. Once known as moody, rootless, and unhappy, she became increasingly stable, secure, and content, even in the face of such challenges as the stillb irth of her first child, Daniel. "My children are the focus of my life," she declared to Terry Smith in People, but music remained enough of a force for her to put out a second solo album, Medusa, in 1 995. It was made up of cover versions of songs by artists as diverse as Neil Young, Bob Marley, and the Temptations.
Numerous reviewers credited Lennox with bringing fresh insights to the tunes. "The fact that she didn't write any of the songs on Medusa will likely be taken as a sign that she has mellowed," predicted a Va nity Fair writer. "Far from it. For although Diva revealed her to be a great songwriter--capable of both melancholy and self-mockery--Medusa shows her finally without guise. It is Annie Lennox stripped down. The only thing you hear is the imprint of her voice on the music of Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Neil Young, and the Temptations. The choices ... are alternately surprising and obscure. And her vocal stylings are so d istinctive that she transforms the songs into personal statements." "Medusa is more than just diva worthy," concurred Elysa Gardner in Rolling Stone. "It's proof that a great singer doesn't need a pen or a computer to be creative."
With her success as a solo performer well established, Lennox remained vague about her plans for the future. Emphasizing again in Vanity Fair that "having children does really shed a different light on things," she went on to say: "First of all, you have to stop putting yourself as number one, because you're not anymore. Somebody else is for a while. Their needs are more important at three A.M." She concluded, "It could be that after this album [Medusa] I do nothing.... I like that. I don't want to put myself in this category of saying, 'Well, my life depends on being a creative person'."
However, in 1999 Lennox and Stewart reunited for a tour and released the album, Peace. Though the record wasn't poorly received, it didn't quite put the Eurythmics back on the musical map so much as serve as a nostalgia tr ip for their fans. The tour itself, though, was a great success.
In 2003, Lennox released Bare, her third solo album, and in the record's liner notes stated: "This album contains songs that are deeply personal and emotional. In a sense I have 'exposed' myself through the work to reveal aspects of an inner world that are fragile ... broken through experience but not entirely smashed. I am not a young artist in their [sic] twenties. I am a mature woman facing up to the failed expectations of life and facing up to 'core' issues." The recor d, nominated for the Best Pop Vocal Category at the Grammys that year, signified a new direction for the matured artist. When asked about turning 50 in 2004 by Time magazine, she replied, "It's like having a grit in a shoe that you never quite get rid of. One wouldn't want to have the same dilemmas at 50 as one had at 15. And indeed I don't. I have a very different take on life. And yet I still have the same passion for musicmaking and for expression."
Undoubtedly, her passion never left. At the 76th Academy Awards, Lennox performed and took home the award for Best Song for her writing and vocal contributions to "Into the West" from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
by Joan Goldsworthy and Ken Taylor
Annie Lennox's Career
Member of musical groups Catch and The Tourists, 1977-80; founder and member of musical group the Eurythmics, 1980-90; with the Eurythmics, released In the Garden, 1982; Sweet Dreams, 1983; Touch, 1984; Revenge, 1986; Savage, 1988; We Too Are One, 1989; Peace, 1999; solo performer, 1990-; releas ed solo albums Diva, 1992; Medusa, 1995; Bare, 2003.
Annie Lennox's Awards
BRIT Awards, Best British Female Artist, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990; Grammy Award, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group (with the Eurythmics) for "Missionary Man," 1986; Grammy Award, Best Music Video (Long Form) for "Diva ," 1992; MTV Music Award, Best Female Video for "Why," 1993; BRIT Awards, Best British Album and Best British Female Artist, 1994; Grammy Award, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "No More 'I Love You's,'" 1995; BRIT Award , Best Female Artist, 1996; BRIT Award, Lifetime Achievement for Outstanding Contribution to the the British Music Industry (with the Eurythmics), 1999; Billboard 2002 Billboard Century Award, 2002; Academy Award, Best Original Song for "Into the West" from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Diva Arista, 1992.
- Medusa Arista, 1995.
- Bare J-Records, 2003.
- With the Eurythmics
- In the Garden RCA, 1982.
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) RCA, 1983.
- Touch RCA, 1984.
- Eurythmics: 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) RCA, 1984.
- Be Yourself Tonight RCA, 1985.
- Revenge RCA, 1986.
- Savage RCA, 1988.
- We Too Are One Arista, 1989.
- Greatest Hits RCA, 1991.
- Peace Arista, 1999.
- Hill, Dave, Designing Boys and Material Girls: Manufacturing the '80s Pop Dream, Blandford, 1986.
- Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul, revised edition, St. Martin's, 1989.
- White, Timothy, Rock Stars, Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1984.
- Creem, July 1984; August 1985; September 1985; December 1986.
- Esquire, July 1992, p. 82.
- High Fidelity, April 1985; May 1988.
- Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1986.
- Maclean's, May 11, 1992, p. 54.
- Melody Maker, January 29, 1983; July 9, 1983; November 19, 1983; May 4, 1985; November 22, 1986.
- Ms., February 1986.
- Musician, November 1983; July 1985; November 1985; August 1986.
- Nation, July 6, 1992, p. 31.
- New Yorker, March 14, 1988, p. 82.
- New York Times, July 17, 1983; February 5, 1984; August 3, 1984; September 3, 1989; November 12, 1989.
- People, August 22, 1983; December 19, 1983; March 12, 1984; May 20, 1985; November 27, 1989; June 10, 1985; August 7, 1995, p. 103.
- Playboy, April 1984.
- Q, May 1991.
- Rolling Stone, June 23, 1983; September 29, 1983; June 20, 1985; October 24, 1985; September 11, 1986; March 4, 1993, p. 58; April 20, 1995, p. 70; November 2, 1995, p. 28.
- Spin, August, 1985.
- Stereo Review, October 1984; September 1985; January 1990.
- Time, June 23, 1984; September 30, 1985; February 16, 2004.
- Vanity Fair, March, 1995, p. 170.
- Wall Street Journal, January 19, 1984.
- Washington Post, March 21, 1984; January 10, 1985.
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