I remember sitting on a lounge in a guest room of my cousin’s house, surrounded by posters of Kiss, The Rolling Stones and Madonna in the mid 80’s. But what really grabbed my attention the most was a giant poster of an orange haired androgynous-looking Annie Lennox striking a pose. Was it confronting? Yes. Did I love it? Yes. Years later I remember reading an article about some US censor who had a hissy fit dubbing Lennox as a “youth corrupting transvestite.” It made me think of that poster. I laugh about it now because I was already a corrupted youth during the 80’s and it’s safe to say that Annie Lennox had no part in it. Interestingly, it was during that same visit to my cousin’s house that I confiscated from his vinyl collection my first Eurythmics album Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (1983). It was the beginning of my appreciation of Annie Lennox.
From humble beginnings and possessing a real talent for the flute (believe it or not), Annie Lennox left her native Scotland for London to study at the Royal Academy of Music in1971. It was only a few years later, after dropping out of college, that she met almost by chance Dave Stewart. Together with Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed The Tourist, who achieved considerable success before eventually breaking up in 1979. In 1980, with a burning ambition to still collaborate together, Lennox and Stewart next formed the Eurythmics. Their first album as a duo was released in 1981 entitled In The Garden (1981). It was judged a commercial failure, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm. They returned stronger than ever with their landmark second album Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), where it eventually peaked at #1 on the US Billboard charts. The groundbreaking videos for the singles Sweet Dreams, and in particular Love Is A Stranger ,were pivotal in announcing the Eurythmics to the world, but not without controversy. (The video for Love Is A Stranger caused such a stir that conservative US censors banned the video featuring an androgynous-looking Lennox, playing the role of a “high-class prostitute”.)
“It’s savage and it’s cruel/ And it shines like destruction/ Comes in like the flood/ And it seems like religion/ It’s noble and it’s brutal/ It distorts and deranges/ And it wrenches you up/ And you’re left like a zombie….” – Love Is A Stranger (Eurythmics).
There were few female artists in the 80’s as powerful as Annie Lennox. Her unique vocals and provocative stage persona made the Eurythmics a worldwide supergroup by the end of 1983. That said, you cannot seriously talk about synth pop in the 80’s without naming at least a dozen Eurythmics hits. I will not name them all but musical standouts include Here Comes The Rain Again (1984), Would I Lie To You?(1985), Thorn In My Side (1986), Missionary Man (1986) and my personal all-time favourite When Tomorrow Comes (1986).
Like many other artists throughout music history, Stewart and Lennox would lose interest in collaborating together as a duo, which in turn allowed Annie to venture out on her own. She instantly flourished under the spotlight as a solo artist, showcasing her soulful qualities on her award winning album Diva (1992). Five more solo albums would follow with varying degrees of praise and criticism. In between her solo years she would collaborate with Dave Stewart as the Eurythmics one more time for their 1999 album Peace.
Outside her fame as a performing artist, Lennox is a survivor and truly an amazing woman who inspires us. She is a tireless advocate and humanitarian. Her bold and courageous work in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention has seen her receive wide acclaim from all over the world. Surely it’s safe to say that her charity commitments almost dwarf her fame as an artist nowadays? Personally I think she probably might like the idea of that.
Photo credit: The image of Annie Lennox is used under the rationale of fair use because no free alternative seems to exist of her at the peak of her powers in the 80’s. If any errors appear with the use of this image please let me know. I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.