One of the finest and most outstanding musical voices of our time, singer, songwriter, campaigner and activist, Annie Lennox is celebrated as an innovator, an icon, and a symbol of enduring excellence. Annie’s music career is peerless with over 80 million record sales to date and winning countless awards, while her tireless charity work is widely praised receiving prestigious awards and honours.
In 1971, at the age of 17, Lennox left her native Scotland after gaining a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
From a fortuitous chance encounter with Dave Stewart in the early seventies, the pair went on to form The Tourists, who ultimately achieved significant success in the UK, Europe and Australia.
It was not until the break up of the band in ’79 however, that Annie and Dave decided to form a duo, calling themselves “Eurythmics”.
They released their first album, “In the Garden” in 1981, but it was not until the worldwide success of their second album, (Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This) in 1983, that Eurythmics became the musical phenomenon we know today.
Eurythmics went on to sell over 75 million albums, and achieved over 20 international hits across the world.
In 1990, Annie released her debut solo album entitled “Diva”. Entering the charts at number 1 in the UK, the album sold around six million copies world wide, (including two and a half million in the USA). “Diva” included the Top 10 singles “Why”, “Walking On Broken Glass” and “Little Bird”.
In 1995, her second album was released, entitled “Medusa”. An album of lovingly crafted reinterpretations of some of Lennox’s favourite songs. It also debuted at number one, and included the massive single “No More “I Love You’s””. Medusa sold around 5 million copies.
Annie released her third solo album “Bare” to much critical acclaim in June 2003, which went on to sell approximately two million copies worldwide.
In October 2007 Annie released her much-anticipated album, “Songs Of Mass Destruction” to critical acclaim. The album featured “SING” a new song featuring 23 or the world’s most acclaimed female superstars, invited by Annie to appear on the record to help draw attention to the HIV AIDS pandemic, especially focusing on the country of South Africa, where women and children are worst affected.
“After personally witnessing Nelson Mandela describing the African HIV AIDS pandemic as a genocide, with women and children being the frontline victims, I set out to try and do something.” – Annie Lennox.
Annie Lennox was first invited to Cape Town in 2003, to take part in the inaugural concert of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 HIV campaign. It was there that she personally witnessed the plight of people struggling to cope with the situation – in clinics, orphanages, hospitals and townships.
Now approaching it’s 4th anniversary, the SING campaign continues to raise funds and awareness in order to contribute to support and change. The money raised through SING helps prevent the spread of HIV in South Africa in different ways, most importantly through treatment literacy programs at a direct grass roots level. SING has already reached out to thousands of people.
In addition to the ongoing SING campaign, Annie is an Ambassador for UNAIDS, Oxfam, Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Campaign, Amnesty International, The British Red Cross, London as well as supporting numerous other organisations.
In September 2008 Annie Lennox hosted the launch of the Amnesty Arts Fund. The Amnesty Arts Fund brings together people who believe passionately in freedom of expression and projects that inspire creative activism around the world.
Also in 2008 Annie was presented with the Award of Merit at the 2008 American Music Awards, broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in L.A. Previous honourees include Prince, Whitney Houston and Frank Sinatra, that same year Annie released her first ever-solo retrospective album called “The Annie Lennox Collection”. The 14-song collection brings together Lennox’s finest work from her four top-selling solo albums – Diva (1992), Medusa (1995), Bare (2003) and Songs of Mass Destruction (2007)
In 2009 Annie joined David Gray for the duet Full Steam, featured on his latest album – Draw the Line. Annie also joined Aretha Franklin in New York for a special one off performance, in celebration of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fames 25th anniversary.
In 2010, Annie Lennox announced a new record deal with Universal Music Group, signalling the end of her 30-year relationship with the RCA Label. Annie also announced that her first album as part of this new exciting deal, “A Christmas Cornucopia”, would be released on Island Records in the UK and Decca in the US. The new album featured Annie’s versions of traditional festive songs along with a new track, ‘Universal Child’. Annie donated her publishing royalties for the new track to The Annie Lennox Foundation, and the album was certified Gold in the UK.
In January 2011, Annie Lennox received an OBE in the New Years Honours list. This great accolade was given for all her hard work and dedication as a humanitarian. Annie was absolutely thrilled to have been given such a prestigious award.
Throughout her career Annie has been honoured with prestigious awards in recognition for both her brilliant music and the great campaigning work she does for humanitarian causes around the world.
Maybe it’s not a straight line, but you can trace the vast and varied creative journey of Dave Stewart – the musician, music producer, author, entrepreneur, filmmaker and philanthropist – back to his childhood in Sunderland, England…and to Tennessee.
“When I was a kid, my cousin ran away to Memphis, and he’d send back boxes filled with all these old blues albums,” remembers Stewart. “We hadn’t heard anything like Robert Johnson or Howlin’ Wolf in north east England. It’s why I learned to start playing the guitar. And there are elements of those records, and what I felt when I listened to those records, that still underlie everything I do.”
Granted, the man does a lot. Stewart’s music career alone spans three decades and more than 100 million album sales, highlighted by his collaboration with Annie Lennox in the groundbreaking pop-rock group the Eurythmics (“Sweet Dreams [Are Made of This]”, “Would I Lie to You?” and dozens more). Behind the scenes, he’s produced albums and co-written songs for Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Mick Jagger, Katy Perry, Jon Bon Jovi and a host of others, racking up numerous Producer, Songwriter and Grammy Awards along the way.
Stewart’s work outside of the music world is just as impressive. He’s released a highly-regarded business tome now in eight languages (The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide), directed a number of short films and movies (including 2000’s Honest, which debuted at Cannes), produced an award-winning documentary that reflected his early musical passions (1991’s Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads), created a multimedia creative hub with Paul Allen called The Hospital, developed his own media company (Weapons of Mass Entertainment), and participated in a number of philanthropic and non-profit projects, from Greenpeace to Stand Up to Cancer, Stewart also worked personally with Nelson Mandela and helped launch his 46664 campaign using his innovative thinking. He even wrote two comic books (one of which, Zombie Broadway, you might see along the Great White Way sometime in the near future).
“I’ve been kind of busy,” says Stewart, laughing. “I co-produced and co-wrote the new Joss Stone album and I co-produced and co-wrote the new Stevie Nicks record In Your Dreams album. I’m going to go on tour with her soon. I just finished recording with Super Heavy, a new band I created along with Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman. I shot full length documentary feature films for Stevie and Joss and my own project and The Musical “Ghost” based on the Movie is opening in London this month I wrote the songs for “Ghost” with Glen Ballard.
The list goes on (and on…and on…). But most recently, a chance encounter pushed Stewart to take center stage on a project for the first time in over a decade, as well as reconnect with those early music memories. Travelling and stuck in London following a volcanic eruption in Iceland, Stewart wandered into a vintage guitar shop. Drawn to a particular model on the wall, the singer was treated to the shopkeeper’s story about the guitar’s original owner, an eccentric country singer named Red River Dave. Stewart felt a spark. As he puts it, “I walked out of that guitar shop and I not only knew I was going to Nashville, but what something amazing was going to happen there.”
That “something amazing” ended up as The Blackbird Diaries (Razor & Tie/Surfdog Records/Weapons of Mass Entertainment), a whirlwind five-day recording session with some of Nashville’s top session players, recorded at John and Martina McBride’s Blackbird Studio. The album, written by Stewart with co-write assist by Bob Dylan and guest appearances by Stevie Nicks, Martina McBride, Colbie Caillat and The Secret Sisters, is a reflective and story-driven journey, with nods to his blues inspirations (“Magic in the Blues,” “So Long Ago”), the price of success (“Beast Called Fame”) and relationships both lost and found (“Worth the Waiting For,” “All Messed Up”).
Stewart describes the album as thus: “It’s a little Dylan-esque meets Leonard Cohen meets Tom Petty meets Lou Reed meets Johnny Cash sounding kinda thing my low vocals and some quirky Beatles type chords and melodies thrown in.” The country/blues/Americana vibe of the record may come as a surprise to those who are more familiar with Stewart’s work with the more electronic sounds of the Eurythmics, but the musician doesn’t see it as a huge musical leap. (“Even back then, there was a blues element at work – you can hear it in songs like ‘Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Missionary Man,’” he says).
After knocking out the album in astounding five days, Stewart gives credit to new bandmates (Chad Cromwell, Michael Rhodes, Dan Dugmore, Tom Bukovac and Mike Rojas) for his creative flow. “It felt like how bands in the 60s, like the Beatles or the Kinks, would record,” he says. “The guys are in the band all have roots in country and blues and rock. And they would just slam these songs home the first time out.”
Stewart also filmed a companion movie for the album (also entitled The Blackbird Diaries), featuring performances of the songs and an unusual behind-the-scenes look at the making of the record, involving both a fortuneteller and a hypnotist. For Stewart, it was simply another creative outlet. “I used to document everything, even back in the Eurythmics days,” he says. “I think filming and writing and music are all part of the same process.”
Impressed with how Blackbird turned out, Stewart already debuted the album live at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre and plans to tour with his new back-up group (as well as continue recording at the same breakneck pace), while continuing his myriad of projects. But it’s obvious what project he’s currently favoring.
“I used to like just being in the back, being sort of an experimental mad scientist behind the scenes,” says Stewart. “But I’ve done enough of that. I’ve lived to tell a lot of stories, and now I’m comfortable in my own skin. This is the journey I’m going to take from now on.”