Annie Lennox has become a diva of note, both through the perpetual re-invention of herself and the timeless emotional resonance of her songs. Now Annie is back with a new album called Bare, which, judging by the intensely personal nature of the songs and their lyrics, refers as much to the candid baring of her soul as to the show of skin on the album’s cover.
All About Annie
Annie Lennox was born on Christmas Day of 1954 in Aberdeen, Scotland. The only child of a cook and a boilermaker, the Scottish lass soon exhibited a flair for all things artistic from poetry to drawing, and of course, music. As a pupil of the Aberdeen School for Girls Annie studied the piano and flute and sang in the choir. Her musical performance career began at an early age when she began playing in symphony orchestras and military bands.
A follower of the sounds of Motown and Marvin Gaye, Annie attended London’s Royal Academy of Music for three years, but dropped out of her classical music studies before she could complete her final exams. Unsure of where her life was taking her, Annie worked in a London bookstore while she thought about the future of her career and her music. She took singing lessons and performed with a number of UK-based bands that never really got off the ground.
In 1976 Annie was waitressing at Pippin’s Restaurant in Hampstead where she met Dave Stewart – whose first words to her were “Will you marry me?” Though she didn’t take him up on the offer, the two moved in together and became musical partners. The pair formed bands The Catch and the Tourists that were soon aborted, making way for the establishment of Eurythmics (a name inspired by a Greek dance Annie had learned as a child). Their first album was In the Garden, but it wasn’t enough to launch them into the big time, while Annie suffered from bouts of depression.
It was Sweet Dreams that introduced the Eurythmics to fame. Incidentally it was also where Annie began to play with gender roles and explore the androgyny of her image. Legend has it that American critics demanded she offer proof of her gender, because at the time many Americans thought she was a transvestite. Her subversion of sexual identities and stereotypes was something with which she continued to experiment in the videos for Who’s That Girl? and more recently Little Bird.
In 1984 the band was steadily making its mark. Dave and Annie’s partnership was strictly musical at this stage, and Annie met Krishna monk Radha Raman who she married and accompanied to Switzerland, struggling with the sudden media interest in her private life. The marriage ended in 1985, the same year in which the band released their other classic There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), and the collaboration with Aretha Franklin on Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves. In 1988 she married Israeli filmmaker Uri Fruchtman who she met on tour, while Dave married Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey (though both these relationships have since broken up).
With more hits on the horizon including You Have Placed a Chill on My Heart and I Need a Man, Annie gave birth to a stillborn son Daniel in 1989. In the same year the band released We Too Are One, featuring a track called Angel dedicated to Daniel. In 1990 Annie and Dave decided to stop recording as Eurythmics. In the same year the Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits package became one of the top selling albums of the Nineties.
1992 saw the release of Annie’s first solo album Diva, an important release because it undisputedly marked Annie’s break from Eurythmics and her status as a performer in her own right. The soul-influenced Diva stayed on the US charts for an impressive 72 weeks, and the highly personal songs included the hits Why and Little Bird. The album’s success won Annie a Brit Award for Best Female in 1993. Her soulful and often dark take on love and loss made her a firm favourite among a wide gay audience.
1995 saw the release of Medusa, an album of covers including A Whiter Shade of Pale, one of Annie’s own favourite songs from her student days. She gave a once-off performance in Central Park and received another Brit Award in 1996. In 1999 the Eurythmics picked up a Brit for their contribution to British music and followed up with the release of Peace – their first album together in almost a decade.
In 2002 Annie performed at the Queen’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee, won the Billboard Century Award for her contribution to music, and continued work on her latest album, Bare…
Her first solo release in almost seven years, Bare promises to be Annie’s most revelatory and profoundly personal release ever. As she explains, “I don’t want to represent myself visually in some kind of clichÃ©d, airbrushed, saccharine kind of way. I want to reveal myself as I am.” One only need look at the striking starkness of the album cover (with photographs by Annie herself with the help of Allan Martin) to be aware of Annie’s raw exposure of her self and her unflinching honesty on Bare.
The songs themselves are no different in their exposition of Annie’s personal life and emotional states with songs like The Hurting Time, Loneliness and 1000 Beautiful Things. Says Annie, “I am not a young artist in her early twenties. I am a mature woman facing up to failed expectations of life and facing up to core issues. She explains that the album at this stage in her life results in her intimate revelation of “aspects of an inner world which are fragile and broken through experience, but not entirely smashed.”