She has earned countless awards for her singing and songwriting talents. She has made numerous philanthropic and charitable efforts. She has performed for the Queen of England and in front of a global audience at the Olympics. ‘Greatest White Soul Singer Alive’ and ‘Most Successful Female British Artist’ are just a sampling of the superlatives she has earned from peers. And, if she plays her cards right, she might get her music played on a local Los Angeles radio station.
While a random New Music Coordinator may not have realized who she was, Annie Lennox is, and has been, a music and cultural icon for decades. Kids these days! The acclaimed and decorated artist from Scotland rose in the 1970s as part of The Tourist, achieved fame with Eurythmics in the ’80s, and launched a successful solo career the following decade; all in all, she sure has sold a lot of records.
Lennox means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people, in part because her music, her beliefs, and her attitudes surrounding what is happening in the world inspire and uplift. Let’s take a look at some of the noteworthy parts of her life.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and roll has become loosely defined, and musical classifications are highly subjective and ever changing. But last month the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced 19 nominees this year (of which five will be inducted), and Eurythmics got a nod—their first—after over a decade of eligibility. While not exactly rock and/or roll, the duo no doubt deserves the honour thanks to the influence Eurythmics (and Lennox in particular) had on music, as well as their wide popularity with fans around the world.
The first album didn’t generate much excitement, but it was the second release, with ‘Sweet Dreams’ on its tracklist, that propelled the pair to great fame. The duo never really earned a multitude of accolades, but endured and consistently impressed, recording eight albums in eight years and rigorously touring. A Hall of Fame induction would be an impressive reward for such noted work.
Eurythmics are up against a wide swath of musical stylings, including such rock and roll legends as The Zombies, LL Cool J, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Rufus Featuring Chaka Chan. That said, Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine are nominated in their first year of eligibility, but they can stand to wait a little while longer.
Lennox has long used her platform to speak out for causes in which she believes, striving to be a role model for her fans and in particular to empower young women. Eight years ago she started The Circle, a charitable organization born from the need to help women and children suffering from AIDS and HIV in South Africa. Over time the group has come to focus on equality for women and girls on many fronts, including economically and politically, and provides access to proper health and medicinal services.
What’s more, The Circle offers a means for women to connect, share stories, experiences, and ideas, and at the moment there are eight Circles operating around the world. Current projects include educating girls in India, curtailing human trafficking, creating jobs for women in Pakistan, empowering female journalists, and working to establish a living wage in the fashion industry.
Lennox is often noted among some highly influential artists who, intentionally or not, disrupted the gender binary long ago. These artists have served as icons for youth who would rather not be confined by norms, helping them learn that they don’t have to be something or someone they don’t want to be. In a time of big hair and wild, flowing outfits, Lennox sported short, slicked-back hair, and could be seen wearing tight leather or a suit. Most importantly, her style and look conveyed the idea that she was just as strong as a man, a message reinforced by wearing traditionally masculine clothing and flexing in photographs.
Just recently, in talking to her daughter, the artist Pink cited Lennox along with David Bowie as those talented and confident musicians and icons who refused to be limited by convention and expectations.
She has done a whole lot of things off the stage and around the world, but it all stems from her music. Her sounds enchant, her lyrics inspire, and her performances engage. ‘Sweet Dreams’ feels like a song that, regardless of how often it’s played, is timeless, powerful, and invigorating. If this was her only contribution to the history of music, it would be a worthy one. But a whole slew of albums, recorded with other artists and alone, offers a fantastic catalog.
Her solo record Medusa is definitely worth a listen, and fits into the Lennox people grew to know in the ’80s. That’s because it’s a collection of covers, all of which were originally sung, of course, by men. Even at the turn of the century, Lennox was still releasing popular and attention-garnering music: ‘17 Again’ was a new dance pop song that moved up the charts.
It should come as no surprise that a woman who has fought for social justice and equal rights around the world is full of hope. The present day is certainly a time with more than a bit of political, social, and economic tension—and cynicism—but Lennox is still optimistic. Lennox performed earlier this fall at the Global Citizen Festival, a new week-long musical event that worked to end global poverty. There she received the George Harrison Global Citizen Award for her excellence both on the stage and for championing important causes.
In an interview with Vogue at the time of the award, Lennox said: “At a time when it appears we are facing more challenges than ever before, we need to embrace the notion of global citizenship. That means choosing hope over despair; responsibility over indifference; feminism over misogyny; and respect, love, and kindness over bigotry, division, and hatred.” We should all follow her lead, aiming to be as dedicated, focused, and inspired as the incomparable Annie Lennox.