Today I am delighted to bring you this fabulous article written especially for us by David Wilkie.  David for those of you who don’t know started the website many years ago, and brought us news of Annie’s activities long before Ultimate Eurythmics did!   David, also a personal thank you from all the fans that used your site over the years!


The album ‘Diva’ is the pinnacle of Annie’s solo music career.  It is a coherent and seamless collection from the opening ‘Why’ (the debut single) to the tongue-and-cheek finale of ‘Keep Young & Beautiful’.


Steve Lipson, as producer, deserves credit for the consistency of sound that permeates and for adding gild to Annie’s songs.  So successful was the result, their collaboration would continue to two further albums in ‘Medusa’ and ‘Bare’.


For a record with such a strong visual style, thanks to the accompanying video album directed by Sophie Muller, and most prominent in the promos for ‘Why’ and ‘The Gift’ which sees Annie resplendent in pink feathers, seamless make-up and cabaret-style costume, it always seemed strange to me that an opportunity was missed to build a live show around the image and to tour. 


Annie has always enjoyed exploring different characters (famously traversing gender roles) and some of her promos point to a parallel career that might have been in movies and theatre– so natural is her feel for performance.


The video for ‘Little Bird’ is a case in point, celebrating several of Annie’s personas throughout the eras from Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ (as dominant male, suited and booted and primed for the boardroom) to the bored housewife from ‘Savage’ (another album that merited a full video album to accompany it with as strong a visual style).  Such presentation seen in Little Bird, and perhaps even Savage, would have lent itself very well to the live stage too. 


The Little Bird promo is just as memorable for Annie’s pregnancy, so visible in the dress specially made for maternity and showcased at Annie’s recent exhibition at the V&A museum in London.  This may well answer the question as to why the album was never officially toured, as Annie’s focus thereafter switched to more of a domestic role and later to Mother Earth, as she has now added activist to her long list of achievements.


In many respects, Diva marks a coming of age: the end of Eurythmics’ first chapter as part of a duo, and the culmination of a woman confident in her abilities as a songwriter, lyricist and importantly, a solo performer.  As a lyricist she excels on ‘Why’ and ‘Primitive’ as she confronts the complexities and regrets within relationships – so often a theme in Annie’s songwriting:


For time will catch us in both hands,
 To blow away like grains of sand,
Ashes to ashes rust to dust,
This is what becomes of us


In other ways, the Diva name is as ironic as it is iconic, as Annie is the type of star who would never court fame for the sake of it.  She is the real deal, and I think her most loyal fans respond to this integrity. 


She is less shy when it comes to the pulling power of her name for musical collaboration, having worked with the elite over the years including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie to cite but a few.  Her allure was enough to persuade actors John Malkovich and Hugh Laurie to feature in the opulent promo for ‘Walking on Broken Glass’ – staged in an eighteenth century salon with more than a passing nod to the film ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ (also starring Malkovich).


The critics and public were just as enthralled, as the album was generally well received upon release, going multi-platinum on both sides of the Atlantic.  For a fan in myself, the album is a milestone; the moment when Annie matured and brought potential to fruition. 


We finally got glimpses of how well the album could have toured when Annie played Central Park in New York in 1995.  Notably, songs like ‘Money Can’t Buy It’ embodied greater atmosphere in the live setting and further highlighted her ability to interpret songs from the studio on to the stage.  The video for the concert is worth a look for the crowd reactions alone: clearly bewitched by the sight and sounds of the occasion; witnessing a performer at the apex of control. 


One gripe I have with this concert is that the set could have been more spectacular.  Some might argue that Annie doesn’t need props or gimmicks as the command of her voice is enough, but my point is that opportunities have been missed to fuse the visual strengths from her promos and the potential transference of these to the live stage.

One must not forget here that ultimately it is Annie’s voice that is her greatest weapon and she can make mediocrity sound awesome.  That’s perhaps another way of saying she could sing the phonebook and still it would sound great.  Diva as a collection of material has quality of song writing at its core and ultimately any album only survives (and sells in decent quantity) if it has the substance to back up the style.  Diva is such an album.


By ‘Medusa’, her follow-up album released in the same year as Central Park, Annie was well into motherhood and again this may explain why the touring side of Annie’s career was never fully mined.  Nobody can deny a person a family and personal happiness, without question, but as a fan, from a selfish perspective, there can sometimes be frustration at what could have been, especially when somebody is really THAT GOOD.  It would be eight more years before we would hear her solo again on ‘Bare’. 


Though much to enjoy, her later albums are more inconsistent (Medusa is a covers album so this is hardly surprising) but none of them have the flow of Diva.  The album remains Annie’s most compelling; confident and complete.

In the context of a different world 20 years on specifically politically and culturally, Annie has also grown as a person (from my limited perspective as merely an observer).  However, it is safe to say that she has evolved into a humanitarian and activist at a world level and, although we saw snapshots of this in the past (involvement in the Nelson Mandela’s Tribute Concert in 1988 is one example and later, the ‘Peace’ album in 1999 as part of Eurythmics), she has now successfully forged a dual-career that encompasses her love of music married to a clear agenda for positive change aimed especially at those suppressed and oppressed in society.  She has mobilised her considerable intellect and media connections to forge a very different path to the one we might have predicted two decades ago.


This determined mindset was most apparent on the musical collaboration for the charity single ‘Sing’ released in 2007, in support of raising awareness and funds for the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa.  Her name (and the cause) convinced more than twenty female artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt to Madonna to feature on the record.  She continues to front campaigns around the world and gift time to organisations such as ‘Women of the World’ (abbreviated WOW) aimed primarily at female empowerment – but also those of men.


In the promo for Little Bird, she played the Master of Ceremonies, but now she can lay claim to the role in real life.  Gone is the awkwardness of the past; so often she could come across distant and defensive in interviews.  Now she has warmth, passion and purpose as well as the confidence to be Annie Lennox behind the mask.  Having witnessed her as MC at the most recent WOW event on London’s Southbank, it was a joy to see her in stand-up mode: quick-witted, relaxed and engaging with the audience.


One dictionary defines ‘diva’ as a ‘distinguished female’.  One might say that Annie predicted her own destiny all those years ago when the record was named as a catalyst for what she would eventually become today.  It will be fascinating to look back in another twenty years to reflect on what this incredible woman may yet achieve. 

David Wilkie 2012