She’s appeared on stage as a blonde glamour queen, as an Elvis imitator and a dominatrix Minnie Mouse; but unlike some pop stars who scream at us from the tabloids with controversial costuming, inane comments and scandalous headlines, Annie Lennox is almost as well known for her political activism, philanthropy, and feminism. She is Shine’s Woman of the Week.
Annie Lennox, an only child, was born as Ann Lennox, in Aberdeen, on Christmas Day 1954. Her father, Thomas Allison Lennox was a boilermaker, and her mother had been a cook before she got married.
Annie showed prodigious musical talent at school and, at the age of seventeen, left her hometown after gaining a coveted place in the Royal Academy of Music in London where she studied the flute, piano and harpsichord for three years. She lived on a student grant and worked at part-time jobs as a waitress, barmaid, and shop assistant for extra money.
Despite being considered a very able student, Annie never felt entirely at home; “All the boys were gay and all the girls thought they were Maria Callas.”
Three days before her final exams at the Academy, Lennox suddenly walked out, never to return. (Ironically in 2006, the academy made her an honorary Fellow).
In her tiny London flat, she worked on her own compositions and singing, and explored new music including Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder. She aspired to “that depth of subtlety and profound statement through music.”
By 1977, Annie Lennox was close to abandoning her dreams and instead had signed up to become a music teacher. Fortuitously, a man named Dave Stewart came into the London restaurant where Lennox was working.
Together they went on to achieve major international success in the 1980s as Eurythmics. With a total of eight Brit Awards, including Best British Female Artist six times, Lennox has won more than any other female artist. She has also been named the “Brits Champion of Champions”.
She also became famous for her ‘transvestitism’, often compared to that of David Bowie, as a reaction to the tacky, sex-kitten image so frequently exploited by female singers. She was named one of the “Ten Most Beautiful Women in the World” by Playboy magazine in 1983.
But she has come a long way since fronting the Grammy Award-winning Eurythmics. Since then she has become a successful solo artist and sold more than 80 million records. But it is her passion for charitable work that drives her now.
In 2011, Lennox was rewarded with an OBE by the Queen for her “tireless charity campaigns and championing of humanitarian causes”. The singer has become renowned for her work with organisations such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace and received the British Red Cross’ Services to Humanity Award in 2008. She dedicates much of her time to raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa alongside Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Foundation.
Lennox believes everybody can do something to help those affected by AIDS in Africa. She is especially supportive of what she calls “Laptop Activism”, and runs many of her charity initiatives through the internet. She released a special fundraising single called Sing, which featured a 23-member choir of female celebrities, including Madonna, Faith Hill, Pink, and many more. Proceeds from the single went to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
Most recently Annie Lennox was heard speaking out against the US President Donald Trump saying that he has been “helpful” in drumming up support for women’s rights. She said said his “locker room talk” acted as a “catalyst” for many women as she took part in a march in London for International Women’s Day.
Lamenting the lack of women in Parliament, and in leadership positions across the globe she said:
“Every year when I march … I feel really saddened by the fact that we are not thousands, that we are not tens of thousands – millions of women walking throughout the world to say the time has come for us to really have gender equality.”
“It’s important that we come together … we need to embark upon a non-violence revolution to achieve gender equality and to defend women’s rights.”
FACTS ABOUT ANNIE LENNOX
- On 4 June 2012 she performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace.
- Lennox performed the song “Little Bird” during the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London on 12 August 2012.
- Lennox and Stewart reconvened Eurythmics in the late 1990s with the album Peace, their first album of new material in ten years.
- Annie Lennox has been a public supporter of Amnesty International and Greenpeace for many years, and she and Dave Stewart donated all of the profits from Eurythmics’ 1999 Peacetour to both charities.
- Concerned by Tibet freedom, she supported Amnesty International campaigns for the release of Tibetan prisoners Palden Gyatso and Ngawang Choephel.
- In 2006, in response to her humanitarian work, Lennox became patron of the Master’s Course in Humanitarian and Development Practice for Oxford Brookes University.
- In October 2006, Lennox spoke at the British House of Commons about the need for children in the UK to help their counterparts in Africa.