[News/People] [UK/USA] Annie Lennox Speaks Out

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Stephanie Stevens

Nov 27, 2010, 7:37:43 AM11/27/10
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PrideSource, MI, USA


Excerpt: I was watching on YouTube the other day a man - or a woman, I
should say, now - who was saying, "Please don't label me as
transgender. I don't want to be labeled. I'm sick of all these
labels." And I'm thinking, "I'm with you." I mean, OK, you're sexually
oriented one way, this way or that way or another way, but I want to
get rid of labels. I think we want to get to the point of evolution,
where it makes no difference if you're straight, gay, transgender,
whatever - just be inclusive. We need to see ourselves as absolutely
human beings, first and foremost.



Annie Lennox Speaks Out

Gay icon releases new Christmas album - and opens up about AIDS
pandemic, Perez Hilton's 'vicious diatribes' and her own sweet dreams
for the world

By Chris Azzopardi

Originally printed (Issue 1847 - Between The Lines News)

[Photo <http://bit.ly/fjAME0> ]

Legendary status, earned through over three decades in the music
business, hasn't changed Annie Lennox.

Despite being a global superstar, first making an impression as part
of the Eurythmics in the '80s before going solo, she's genuinely
concerned about the human condition, as her tireless work toward
promoting HIV/AIDS awareness - with her SING campaign, established in
2007 - demonstrates. She's inspired the world through dialogue and
travel and music, a platform Lennox uses to fervently convey her
feelings on society with her sterling voice.

"Universal Child," which Lennox originally performed on "Idol Gives
Back" earlier this year wearing a shirt that said "HIV-Positive" (even
though she isn't), is yet another passionate plea - this time, to help
heal the world. It takes on new life as it rounds out Lennox's new,
first-ever holiday album, "A Christmas Cornucopia," which also
includes traditional songs and unconventional carols. Its heart,
however, is still intact.

On the phone, as Lennox speaks to us from her Scotland home about the
long-gestating collection, she's completely grounded, initiating the
conversation by mocking how much time her people have given us: "This
is your 15 minutes with Annie Lennox," she opens with a laugh.

And so it is, as Lennox gets heated over issues dear to her heart: her
opinion on the current state of HIV/AIDS, feelings about the
bullying-prompted suicides, and why sexuality labels shouldn't exist.

Why release a Christmas album now, after all this time in the business?

It was just the optimum moment. It's something I've been longing to do
for many years, and when you do anything in music it takes time. So
every album that I've ever made has taken up most of the year that
I've made it in. Then, finally, it came to the point where I was out
of contract and I was like, "What's my next step?" And then it just
occurred to me very obviously, "Ah, this is when I do what I've wanted
to do for years." (Laughs) So it's just perfect. It's a labor of love,
this whole thing.

It sounds like it too, and it has some extra significance: Your 56th
birthday is on Christmas Day. Did you ever get gypped on gifts?

When I was a kid, it was fine - I used to get double, and I felt very
good about that. But I'm at a point where receiving presents is not
really the most important thing to me. (Laughs)

Well, of course: You're more about giving, right?

I prefer to. It's very nice to get a present, but I like to give. I do.

I'm not surprised. How does "Universal Child" fit on "A Christmas Cornucopia"?

You know, it was a very interesting thing. Basically, Island Records,
or Universal, who I'm signed to, just loved the song so much; they
just kind of said, "You have got to put it on the album. We really,
really want you to put it on the album." So it was almost like their
insistence, because I wasn't sure; I'd been doing traditional
Christmas carols, (and thought), "I wonder if this fits in." But
actually now, on reflection, I think it really does fit in.

It really belongs because the focus of all of the songs goes to the
nativity. It goes to the birth of a child into the world - even if
you're not Christian, which I am not a Christian - in a way that I was
able to identify with in a metaphorical way, because I was thinking,
"Well, this is a symbol. This is a child. It's all of us. It's about
humanity." So there was a thread of connection that ran through all
the songs, you see.

How did the song come about?

I hadn't intended to write a song for the album, but one day I had
this idea for "Universal Child" and I just started playing around with
it while we were recording something. And basically, I was like,
"Ohhh, wow, there's a really interesting thing happening here." So we
stopped recording what we were recording and we carried on with
"Universal Child" and finished it in the same evening. Sometimes it's
so strange like that: You write a song and it all comes at once. So
that was one of those.

You merge a lot of your passion for activism into your music,
particularly as it pertains to children and AIDS. Why do you think
music is such a good platform for these issues?

Music is a great vehicle of communication; everybody loves music - I
never really met anybody who didn't like music. And music tells
stories and communicates ideas, and people are interested in music and

Sadly, in our culture we're obsessed with celebrity - celebrity is the
thing - and we spend so much money on magazines; we're so interested
in other people's lives, so-called celebrities, and it's a bit
disheartening because we're a big world and there's so many things we
could change and put right. But we're so consumed by our own
consumerist culture that very often we don't see it.

I had a bit of a turning point when I had an opportunity to go to
places that I wouldn't have had a chance to visit before, and it blew
my mind. I thought I knew what poverty was about. I thought I knew,
and actually I didn't know until I saw it for myself.

Right - back in 2003 when you participated in the launch of Nelson
Mandela's HIV/AIDS foundation. How has seeing the devastation caused
by poverty and AIDS affected you as a person?

I don't think anybody could grasp the scale of the HIV/AIDS pandemic
as it is played out, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where you have
22 million who are infected with the virus. Twenty-two million! And
when you have so many deaths - I think it's 27 million - it's a figure
that you cannot get your head around.

Recently, I was in Berlin and I went to visit the Jewish Holocaust
memorial right in the center of former East Berlin, and it's very,
very powerful - all kinds of people who perished in this Holocaust.
The figures are staggering. And then you look at the HIV issue and
it's even more.

We were all celebrating the Chilean miners, including myself, and I
was so happy to see these men emerge one by one - 33 men, out of the
earth - and yet I know the price of human life in many places is

What does being a gay icon mean to you?

(Laughs) It means lots of gay men and women like me! It's a funny
thing: I don't wake up in the morning and think, "Oh my goodness, I'm
a gay icon!" Not at all. But you see, I'm not part of the gay
community myself, so it's not part of my direct experience. But I'm
certainly a liberal-minded person, and I actually really almost resent
all these labels.

I was watching on YouTube the other day a man - or a woman, I should
say, now - who was saying, "Please don't label me as transgender. I
don't want to be labeled. I'm sick of all these labels." And I'm
thinking, "I'm with you." I mean, OK, you're sexually oriented one
way, this way or that way or another way, but I want to get rid of
labels. I think we want to get to the point of evolution, where it
makes no difference if you're straight, gay, transgender, whatever -
just be inclusive. We need to see ourselves as absolutely human
beings, first and foremost.

In the '70s, when I was a teenager, it was the first time I discovered
that anybody was gay. I had never met a gay person before I came down
from Scotland, and the changes that have happened so far are huge. I
think there have just been huge steps. Gay people have come out, and
they're powerful and working in banks, in clinics, as doctors,
teachers, everywhere. It's just a natural evolution, in a way.

It does worry me very much when I hear about very extreme homophobia
arising in places. I think of my friends who, if they went to certain
countries, would be ostracized or - it's unbelievable to think that
these extremes do exist, but this is the world we live in. We're
living in a time where you have fundamentalists who are so extreme -
either the Catholic Church or in the Muslim areas - and I just think,
"Where's the tolerance?"

How do you feel about the recent string of gay youth suicides, then?

In this day and age, how come a young teenage boy or girl is feeling
so conflicted about their sexual orientation that they feel suicidal?
This bullying on cyberspace, uncontrolled, and this horrible result of
nasty, vicious celebrity bullshit that you get on the Internet - an
individual like Perez Hilton coming out on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"
and saying, "I'm sorry, I've seen the light," let's make sure that he
walks his talk and now that he apparently has seen the light, stop all
this bullying - stop it!

It's disgraceful. It always was disgraceful. It should never be, and
he of all people who have benefited so much from his vicious diatribes
and his vicious putting down of so many individuals, he now needs to
take responsibility and go forward and say, "I will now take
responsibility and work for the other side."

You've said that wanting to resist being perceived as a girly-girl
prompted your androgynous phase in the '80s. Why didn't you want to be
seen as ultra-feminine?

I wanted to be perceived as a person with my own rights who is not
going to be simply understood through my gender, through a certain
limitation. Nowadays, women are so sexually explicit and they use this
as a tool to get popular, and I find it very one-dimensional. When I
see, like, with the rap music, hip-hop girls just being overtly
sexual, it bores me. I just think, "Oh, the same old gag." Surely we
could've evolved further than that.

I'm all for sexuality being free and liberal, but I feel so sad that
it's like a one-trick pony. That's all I see are bum, ass and tits -
and it's sad. It's a sad thing because people fought so hard to
liberate us and to give us the vote and to give us more equal
opportunities, and it looks sometimes to me like we're really going

So you're still very much a feminist.

I am feminist. I'm utterly feminist, and I'm very disappointed when
people are afraid of the word and step away from the word. I told you
I don't like labels, but this is an important label. This is very
important, and the fact that people are stepping away from it is a
travesty. What we need to do is to take ownership of the word
"feminist" and we need to reinvent it so that people embrace it again.
It's a travesty that feminism is looked on as something that they
should recoil from.

If you had a genie in a bottle, what would be your three wishes for the world?

Healing. The genie would have to take all the extremists in the world
that leaped immediately to arms and to warfare and get the opposing
forces to get their mindset changed so that their priority should be
only about finding solutions, only peaceful solutions. Unfortunately,
we're stuck in places like the Middle East, into the perpetual
catch-22 of someone being killed, someone killing someone else - and
then it goes on and on and on and the bloodletting goes on and on and
on, and there seems to be no solution.

I don't ever know if it's going to be possible because we're human
beings and we're incredibly odd, but it would be wonderful to see
peace. All these divisions that occur ironically between religious
beliefs - Christians, Muslims, whomever - are the biggest tragedy on
the planet. And then, of course, the sustainability of the planet -
who knows where we're at; we talk about global warming, about
pollution, and we do a lot of talking. But I'd like to see the
government really taking more responsibility on a global scale.

And then I'd like to see a real sort of development in preventable
disease: Access to medicine that can prevent the deaths of millions of
people, I'd like to see that. I'd like to see healthcare systems fully
staffed. I'd like to see access to treatment. I'd like to see
healthcare systems that are on their knees, in some way becoming
effective. I'd like to see the end of corrupt governments. I'd like to
see transparency of governments. I'd like to see all of these corrupt
systems that are functioning, and all of these people who have scooped
up so much money, taking accountability. It's things like this that I
think a lot about.


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