In 1983, Annie Lennox — then part of the British New Wave duo Eurythmics — became an overnight sensation with the release of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” But it wasn’t just Annie’s smooth, soulful voice that captured audiences. With a bright-orange buzz cut and wearing a man’s suit for the song’s video, she was also an instant style icon.
These days, Annie, who turns 60 on Dec. 25, is more likely to be seen walking around her London neighborhood in comfy trousers and a loose peasant blouse. Her outlook on life has softened, too, thanks in part to her husband of two years, Dr. Mitch Besser.
“When I was younger, I was very defensive because I felt [people in the music business] were out to get me,” Annie tells Closer. “I was fierce. But I’ve been able to let my guard down and just relax.”
Well, not just relax. Annie’s seventh solo album, 'Nostalgia' — a collection of classic American standards — is out Oct. 21. “Singing these songs now, with a wealth of life experience,” says the mother-of-two. “It’s like I’ve always known them.”
(Photo Courtesy of Annie Lennox)
Why did you name your new record 'Nostalgia'?
I don’t remember the exact moment it came to mind, but when it did, I said, “Oh my goodness, this is it! I am feeling nostalgic.” It’s something quite timely for me.
I’m going to be 60 at the end of the year, and it’s a watershed moment in my life. I remember turning 40, and it was a very significant year for me in many respects. It was the year I said to myself, “I’m no longer a young person in youth culture.” Becoming 60 two decades later is a whole other demarcation. I’m starting to feel like I want things to slow down — I want to reflect. And I also want to put my voice down for posterity, singing these songs and hopefully breathing fresh life into them.
Are you nostalgic about your own life?
I’m nostalgic for my children’s childhoods. I long to be back there when they were tiny, because those days went by so quickly. It’s a very accelerated world that we live in. A part of me just wants to breathe and sit very quietly, like an old granny on the porch. You know, like in the song “Memphis in June” — I can see my grandma-ma ’cross the street still a-rocking, watching all the neighbors go by oh my. [Laughs]
Do you ever miss being in Eurythmics with Dave Stewart?
No, never. I personally don’t want to relive the ’80s. I think Eurythmics was a very particular phenomenon, and it was my life and Dave’s life for a very long time. But I don’t want to live in the past any more than he does.
￼What is your relationship like now?
We both do our separate things creatively, and that suits us both very well. We had intensely lived in each other’s lives for such a long time, and then we were starting to feel constrained by it. The relationship was no longer tenable.
Your music has evolved so much over the years. How have you personally changed?
Oh, I’ve changed so much! Becoming a mother was hugely significant, and gave me this extraordinary experience of love and devotion and what it means to be a parent. My daughters (Tali, 21, and Lola, 23, from Annie’s second marriage, to producer Uri Fruchtmann) are almost like my raison d’être on the planet.
What has motherhood taught you?
That your children are not your children. They’re arrows that you send forth. They are not your property, but they are your sacred bond. And your sacred contract is to love them unconditionally.
You stepped away from the music scene when you were raising your daughters. Have you ever dreamed of giving it all up?
Oh, absolutely. I’m very, very close to that at all times. I always have been. Every record we ever made as Eurythmics and everything I ever did, I was always like, This is the last one. Because, you know, fame is a very toxic place. It’s a very strange environment, where everybody knows you and you don’t know them. And it’s difficult for people to identify with you.
What keeps you coming back?
You know, I’m a musician. It’s a very natural, integral part of who I am. And I love making music, so that was always the reason, and it still is. It never went away.
Which artists do you listen to today?
I don’t listen to music anymore. I mean, I do occasionally, but the music I hear is in my head, mostly. To be honest, I’m a person who loves silence and peace. I’m deeply involved in music-making and I love that, and occasionally I’ll listen to music and it’s like, wow, a discovery! But I don’t need to turn it on to create an atmosphere around me. I’d rather light a candle.
You’ve said that songwriting comes more easily for you during difficult times. Is that why 'Nostalgia' is a covers album — because you’re happy?
I am not considering myself as a songwriter anymore. When I look back on my life, there was a lot of unresolved pain and sadness around me. And the music-writing and performance was a way for me to express what I was feeling, to make sense of it in some kind of other form. And I no longer feel that way. I still have an aspect of deep sadness in me, but it is no longer what defines me. Making music in the studio — that’s when I’m soaring. That’s what I love doing.
You’re also deeply involved in AIDS-related causes like mothers2mothers, an organization that works with HIV-positive pregnant women in South Africa.
Being a mother has really been the thing that has informed me — knowing how challenging it is to be pregnant. And then I think of the young girls and women who are delivering babies on the floors of hospitals. If they’re born into poverty, they have not a hope in hell.
Mitch is your third husband. Were you surprised to find love again?
I should say! [Laughs] But it wasn’t falling in love again. My relationship with Mitch isn’t comparable to anything that I’ve ever had. This is a different level. I have, in my relationship with my husband, a real mature appreciation and respect. I’m on a level with him that’s abiding and authentic.
That’s wonderful to hear! You’ve accomplished so many things during your life and career — is there anything left on your bucket list?
I’m trying to live my bucket list right now. I’m not making a list of, like, “I have to go to Chile or Peru.” It’s more like, live it now!
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