Annie Lennox Interview

The Scottish-born singer opens up about heartache and new horizons

As one half of the Eurythmics and, later, as a solo artist, Annie Lennox has sold tens of millions of records. Yet, as JSP discovers, she has managed to be successful on her own terms, using her celebrity to champion the causes she cares about.

JSP Tell me about the charity single Sing, which raises money for women with HIV/Aids in Africa. The line-up of women who agreed to record it with you is amazing, from Fergie and Faith Hill to Celine Dion and Madonna.

AL I thought I should try and make this song appealing to more than just my fans, so I contacted as many artists as I could think of. I thought, if I can get these successful female singers talking about the single and the reasons behind it on their websites, it will be a start. This is a lifelong commitment; I want to devote
a big amount of time to HIV and Aids, because women and children in Africa are the people affected the most. There are all sorts of issues. It’s about poverty and lack of education and lack of resources. I’ve never experienced chronic poverty, but I know what it’s like to live on £3 a week. I’m from a working-class background, and I’ve experienced that worry of not having a job next week because the unions are going on strike. I know that because I don’t come from a wealthy background.

When you had to go it alone after being with Dave Stewart for nearly a decade, it must have been very lonely.

On the one hand it was kind of thrilling because, at one point, I thought I couldn’t do anything without Dave. I needed to know what I could achieve without him. It’s important for everyone to know what they can do without someone else. I liked my independence; it really boosted my confidence, and I needed that. You do fear that you’re only as good as your partner.

Was it tough being in a band with someone you’d had a physical relationship with?

You don’t let it get to you, you know? The dynamic between two individuals starts off with everything warm and nice and fabulous and good. Working and living together can serve you quite well, but when it starts to go wrong – oh, boy!

That must have been painful. What was it like when you started working alone?

When it comes to my creative work, I like to keep my cards close to my chest. I have to be alone. I spend hours and hours alone in my house, and I convince myself that I am a total misfit with huge problems – but actually, when I get out there, I’m comfortable with people. I’m just a bit allergic to the energy and sound of other people, that’s what it is. I feel OK about it now, though. I’ve never been a social person. When I grew up, the other girls would all be combing their hair and exchanging lipstick, and I just couldn’t do that group thing.

I think there comes a time in your life when you can’t change the way you are and you have to say, ‘This is how I am, take it or leave it.’ Now you’re 53, has that time come?

I’ve been through a lot of stuff. In the past, I have wondered if maybe I attracted all this drama – stuff from the past that still makes me miserable if I think about it too much – because I’m an intense person. There’s the theory that you make [your own drama] – and maybe I do – but, right now, I’m getting closer to a place where I can go, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’

Will you carry on recording?

Songs of Mass Destruction was the last album I was contracted to do [with Sony BMG]. I’ve been in a contract long enough, and the industry is changing. I don’t want to be owned by a corporation and obliged to make a certain type of album. I want to be free. But in a couple of weeks’ time I’m going to book a studio and see [what happens]. I’m juggling a lot of things: there’s my home life with my daughters, as well as my creative life with my writing and recording.

This is an edited version of the full feature, which appears in the April 2008 issue of Marie Claire.

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