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Annie Lennox in General

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      21.09.2001 05:52
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      Annie Lennox is without doubt one of the most superlative talents that the UK has ever produced. She is one of my favourite female artists of all time, in fact was my number one until I discovered the Swedish singer, Robyn. She still remains number two. Over a period of more than twenty years her work with The Tourists, Eurythmics and as a solo artist have contributed some of the most memorable music to the enjoyment of audiences world-wide and brought her acclaim and industry awards. Her originality and imagination, which is her strength, has been described as "eccentric" by lesser intellects. Born in Aberdeen on Christmas Day, 1954, she displayed a musical aptitude from an early age. Her parents, Tom Allison Lennox, a boilermaker in the shipyards, and Dorothy Farquharson Lennox, a school cook, could be said to have come from solid, traditional, working class Scottish stock. Her upbringing was very much shaped by this background. She showed an aptitude for the piano and flute. Her parents supported and encouraged these artistic abilities. They also led her to attend Aberdeen School for Girls, which would be considered very much a middle class establishment. Here her talents were recognised though not enthusiastically encouraged as, academically, she was considered an average student, more emphasis being placed there on academic rather than artistic excellence. This was not to be the first time that Annie's outstanding talent failed to be recognised by a conservative establishment. Like most teenagers at this time she developed an interest in popular music, especially Motown, as well as UK artists. Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" was an especial favourite, one she was to cover later in her career. However, her interests didn't stop there. She showed an equal interest in classical music; years later she recorded "Beethoven (I Love To Listen To)". When sh
      e was 17, her ability with the flute enabled her to gain entry to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. For the next three years she studied classical music but with an increasing feeling that she really wasn't being provided by the Academy with what she wanted out of life. Her fellow students were mostly from a very different background and she felt she had little in common with them. The mindless discipline and regimentation didn't suit her talents. Virtually on the eve of her final examinations she made a life-changing decision and quit. It was now 1974 and Annie had to find a job in order to support herself, having decided to remain in London. Initially she took a job in a bookstore and moved in with a colleague, Steve Tomlin. Steve had a wide range of records, including artists such as Stevie Wonder. His music made a big impression on Annie and later in her career he appeared on one of her recording, “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)”. She soon quit the bookshop to take a job as a waitress in order to have greater flexibility over her free time. It was at this time that she started writing her own music. This and her familiarity with Scottish folk music won her a job as lead singer with a folk-rock group called "Dragon's Playground" but this didn't last long. She had aspirations to more than she felt the group could offer by way of performing opportunities, which was mostly before inattentive pub clientele. She joined a jazz-rock group called "Red Brass", which had already had some success, having released an album. It gave her an opportunity to play the flute but even so this was not the sort of musical direction she was seeking to take. She came in contact with another singer, Joy Dey and together they formed a duo, which they named the "The Stocking Tops". However, it was almost back to square one for Annie and her new associate
      and after enduring it for a few months they agreed to call it quits and go their own ways. By 1976 she was once again making a living as a waitress in a health food restaurant, "Pippins Restaurant" in Hampstead. She also helped run a second-hand clothing stall at weekends. Here she met Paul Jacobs, who ran a record stall. Using him as a sounding-board, she played him some of her music. It is to his credit that he immediately recognised her considerable talent. Paul decided to introduce her to a friend, a guitar player in his own right. Paul believed that his friend would be able to get Annie a record contract. They met at the restaurant at which Annie worked. His first words to Annie were, "Will you marry me?" The friend was Dave Stewart. Dave was already trying to get a deal with Logo Records along with a friend, Peet Combes, but was having no success as neither were considered capable of singing, somewhat of a handicap! Annie made all the difference and a six record deal was soon offered. Their initial incarnation was as "The Catch" and under this name they released their first single, "Borderline". This first effort met with little success and they soon decided that the band needed to be expanded if it was to be successful. They added new members in Jim Tooney and Eddie Chin and changed their name to "The Tourists". The Tourists proved to be their first real experience of fame. Loosely described as a "punk" band, a label used more because of punk's then current popularity rather than a real description of their orientation, they nevertheless enjoyed popular success with their live performances although their first self-titled album was less so. Their second album, "Reality Effect", generated a chart success with a cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want To Be With You", which reached no. 4. The alb
      um even achieved sufficient sales through the early eighties to go platinum. This was the first time that Annie came to my attention. I thought this was a great cover but nothing much else by The Tourists did anything for me. A further album, "Luminous Basement", followed but after these three albums and five singles in all, the band split. Nevertheless, over the years they have remained one of the legendary and formative bands of pop. Dave and Annie remained very close, both personally and as a musical pairing. Together they formed a new band, "Eurythmics", a name derived from a form of Greek dance Annie had learned as a child at school in Aberdeen. They contracted with RCA and produced their first album, "In The Garden" and single, "Never Gonna Cry Again" together with an appearance on the classic TV music show, "The Old Grey Whistle Test". Despite this, success was still not really knocking at their door. Their lack of success caused Annie to suffer from depression. Dave also had serious health problems that included a period of hospitalisation. Their enforced rest resulted in much needed recuperation and their subsequent return to health resulted in what was to be their first real taste of success. Their single, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)", from the similarly named "Sweet Dreams", their second album, reached no. 2 in the UK and, even better, was a chart-topper in the States. The quirky video that was produced for Sweet Dreams was to become a trademark of the Lennox style. Sweet Dreams was a great single and from that moment on I started really to follow Annie’s career. This had been, however, their second single, but its success resulted in the re-release of their first single, "Love Is A Stranger", from the same album, and which reached no. 6 in its own right. In 1983 touring success was accompanied by their
      third album, "Touch", notable for its cover featuring a leather masked Annie with short bright red hair. Singles from the album, "Right By Your Side" and "Here Comes The Rain Again" achieved chart success. By now Eurythmics was one of my favourite groups. I always got the impression, probably unfairly so, that Annie was the real driving-force of the group. The way she put the songs over, especially in the videos that accompanied them, gave me the feeling that it was Annie’s creative and distinctive direction that made Eurythmics what they were. 1984 was a significant year for Annie for more reasons than one. She met a Hare Krishna follower, Radha Raman, and after a whirlwind romance they were married. Sadly, as is often the case in such circumstances, the marriage didn’t survive even a whole year. During this tumultuous year Dave and Annie were invited to write music for the topical remake of the film of George Orwell’s “1984”. Their contributions were typically quirky, no more so than “Sex Crime (1984)”, a chart hit but one which did not meet favour with Director, Michael Radford. Indeed he made it clear that he didn’t really like any of their music but despite that, most of their contributions were, in the event, used. 1985 saw Annie putting her private life problems behind her and devoting her attentions to Eurythmics’ next album, “Be Yourself Tonight”. From this came what is surprisingly their only UK No. 1 in “There Must Be An Angel…” featuring, as mentioned before, Stevie Wonder, and also a duet with Aretha Franklin, which also produced a chart hit in “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”. Their next album, “Revenge”, featured a new band line-up, including drummer, Clem Burke, from the very earliest Eurythmics days. This album was the source of yet more great track
      s and chart success for “Missionary Man”, “Thorn In My Side” and “Miracle of Love” followed. It was now 1987 and at this time Annie met an Israeli film producer, Uri Fruchtman, who had filmed a documentary on Eurythmics. Their relationship developed and in 1988 they married. Around this time, Dave had formed a relationship with Siobhan Fahey, one of the Bananarama trio and later of Shakespear's Sister, and the two had married. Much of the success of “Revenge” is probably attributable to Dave and Annie’s happier and more settled private lives. Sadly, for Annie, that happiness was not to last long. In December of 1988, Annie’s first baby, Daniel, was still-born. The following year was Annie’s. She was deservedly voted “Best female Singer” in the BPI awards, a success she was to repeat in 1990. During 1989 Dave and Annie produced their next, and as it turned out, their last (at least, for some considerable time) album, “We Too Are One”. Dave and Annie went their own ways to pursue their own interests. 1991 was to be a year of more personal “production”. In December she gave birth to a much longed-for baby, Lola. At this time a Greatest Hits album was produced, which reached No. 1 in the UK and remained in the charts for around 40 weeks. It enjoyed amongst the biggest sales of any album of the 90s. Finally, Annie showed us in 1992 what she could do on her own. Her first solo album, the aptly named “Diva”, is one of the best albums by any artist ever produced. It reached No. 1 in the UK and enjoyed chart success for around 70 weeks. It was also a big and long-lasting success in the States. Chock-full of superb songs, individual tracks also achieved considerable success. “Why” is, in my opinion, one of the best songs ever written. Its international success is illustrate
      d by a story about Annie herself. On holiday in Venice and sitting at an outdoor table drinking coffee, she was recognised by a group of youngsters. They surrounded her at her table and sang “Why” to her “A Cappella”. She was reportedly absolutely delighted. “Little Bird” also achieved solo success but most notable of all was the brilliant “Walking On Broken Glass” with its “Les Liasons Dangereuses” video starring such notable US and UK actors as John Malcovitch and Hugh “Blackadder” Laurie. The video deservedly won a Grammy “Best Video” in the 1993 awards, and Annie, for an unprecedented third year won “Best Female Singer” at the Brits. This year also brought more personal success with the birth of Annie’s second daughter, Tali. A deserved break to concentrate on family life followed. She came back in 1995 stronger than ever, with her second album, “Medusa”. Demonstrating that “Diva” was not just a flash-in-the-pan it produced yet more hits in the cover of one of her favourites from her formative years, Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and “Waiting In Vain”. A massively successful solo concert in New York’s Central Park was captured on a second CD released with “Medusa”. Yet more success followed, with a Grammy for the outstanding “No More I Love You's” and yet again, a “Best Female Singer”, at the Brits. Annie decided to take a total break from the industry and this eventually stretched to three years! The next time she was to be seen in a music setting was in 1999 when she and Dave Stewart were presented with an “Outstanding Contribution” award at the Brits and, as Eurythmics once again, performed live a closing set. It turned out that Annie and Dave had once again been working togeth
      er on new material. A brand new Eurythmics album, “Peace”, followed, the album produced as a tribute to and in support of organisations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace. Singles from the album, “I Saved The World Today” and “17 Again”, both achieved chart success. So what does the future hold? For my part I can’t wait to find out. Whether the Eurythmics reunion proves to be a one-off or not I shall be a fan of Annie Lennox forever, the UK’s greatest ever female artist and a world-wide giant of music.

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