The face is instantly recognisable. The cruel cheekbones and soft blue eyes. The masculine jaw and finely arched brows topped by a peroxide pixie crop. It is a face whose melancholy beauty has launched six solo albums and countless tours, won an Oscar, Grammys, Brits and Ivor Novellos. Now, at 63, it is framed by horn-rimmed glasses and is, according to its owner, wrinkled. But that is not what looks so different about it. It is that Annie Lennox is laughing. She hasn’t written a pop song in years. Instead, she is happy.
I do wonder, fleetingly, if she’ll be the Diva her debut solo album proclaimed. But right from the start, she is warm, sincere and so modest that at one point she starts talking about what she’d do “if I was, like, some real A-lister person”. She has always “tried to avoid red carpets, tried to keep my head down. This whole world of celebrity they talk about now, it’s completely vacuous. I can’t stand the star bullshit. I’ve realised over the years just how uncomfortable it makes me feel.”
These days, she spends much of her time in a cottage by the sea in South Africa, “a very good place to just tuck in”. But tonight she will perform at Sadler’s Wells in London. It will be her first gig in the UK for more than a decade and, of course, it sold out in seconds.
Lennox has stated she may never compose more music. “Oh, years ago the muse left me,” she says. And with that, she has shed a profound sadness. “I don’t know that I had to be unhappy to write, but I often was unhappy and the feelings were predominantly painful, sad and melancholic. There is a beauty in that, without question.”
In the 1980s, Eurythmics specialised in bittersweet, effervescently tormented pop — a juxtaposition that makes Sweet Dreams the perfect pop song. Or Here Comes the Rain Again. Or a whole back catalogue of masterpieces. After Lennox’s relationship with Dave Stewart disintegrated, her lyrics as a solo artist in songs such as Why and No More I Love Yous addressed her pain even more explicitly. Music has never been about entertainment for her, but “expunging, really coming from a sad place … I was expressing an angst that women especially have lived with.”
She grew up an only child in a working-class family in Aberdeen. “That time and that place, people were very formal with each other. There wasn’t hugging and kissing. Life was tough so they had to be stoic. There was stress and tension in our house, but I think the whole of Scotland was stressed and tense.”
She felt isolated in childhood. She felt pain in adulthood. When I ask what finally helped overcome her depression, she smiles. “I’m married to a wonderful man.” She wed her third husband, Dr Mitch Besser, who runs a leading South African HIV charity, in 2012. This despite vowing — after her first year-long marriage to a German Hare Krishna devotee, Radha Raman, then a 12-year union with the film producer Uri Fruchtmann — never to wed again. “He [Besser] loves me and tells me that he loves me every day. I feel seen, heard and understood. Throughout the majority of my life I don’t think I found that kind of unconditional love from anybody.”
Was it hard to meet a man not threatened by her success? “It was. Men find it difficult, yes. I think it is intimidating.” She also changed when she became a mother — she had her first daughter, Lola, in 1990, then Tali in 1993. “It was so profound. I had never experienced that feeling like that. I think that’s what it’s been all about — seeking connection.”
YOU CAN READ THE FULL FEATURE HERE: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-magazine-interview-annie-lennox-on-depression-feminism-and-why-shes-standing-by-oxfam-rzs89k297