Annie Lennox: You Ask The Questions

(Such as: what persuaded you to come back after announcing your retirement in 1995? And do you dress up to pop out to the shops?)
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Annie Lennox was born in Aberdeen on Christmas Day 1954, the daughter of a nurse and a boilermaker. At 17, she won a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London, but left on the eve of her finals in 1971. 1n 1976, she met Dave Stewart in Pippins, a health-food restaurant in London, where she was a waitress. The pair were lovers for a short time, before forming the Eurythmics and notching up 19 Top-10 hits and seven platinum albums. Since the Eurythmics split in 1990, Lennox has continued her success with albums including Diva and last year's Bare. She lives in London with her two daughters.

Which of your songs is closest to your heart, and why?
Mel Devlin, Colchester

I honestly don't know - they're all my babies. Oh, all right then, if you must... "Cold".

What were you listening to when you were 13?
Nina Harris, Edinburgh

"A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procul Harem, as it was the first grown-up record I bought. I played it over and over again because it seemed to hold the key to the great mysteries of the universe, although I couldn't quite fathom out why. Melancholic surrealism... that's my kinda music.

How connected do you feel to the place where you grew up, and are you still in touch with many of your childhood friends?
Caroline Murray, Ringwood

I feel connected to a place that no longer exists, except in my own nostalgia. I've been nostalgic since I was a child - I always wanted to time-travel back to the Thirties for some reason. I left my hometown in Scotland when I was 17. I prefer the anonymity of cosmopolitan cities, rather than provincial places. I haven't kept in touch with anyone from my childhood. I just left and, in a sense, never came back.

Did you always know, even as a child, that your voice would make you famous?
Peter French, Ludlow

Fame for its own sake has never been a driving force for me. For some reason, people seem to think that there is something wonderful about being famous and, as a result, are motivated to chase after it. I don't think that they can have any real understanding about the ramifications of this particular cultural obsession. I never thought about my voice making me "famous". I simply wanted to sing, write, create and record music. To express myself through sounds and words. No one "taught" me how to do this... even though I had countless music lessons. I just always had an intuitive pull towards music and music-making.

You announced your retirement in 1995, and then changed your mind. What persuaded you to come back?
Lily Porter, by e-mail

Did I? I must have forgotten. It sounds a bit pompous, "announcing one's retirement". I mean, really, who cares? I have the benefit now of making music as and when I feel like it. Besides that I'm spinning plates, and still wondering what I'm going to do when I grow up.

When you retired, one of the things you said you wanted to do was live a more normal life. What aspects of normal life do you enjoy most?
Chris Small, Newport

But I didn't retire! Did I? Maybe I was just feeling menopausal or something! Actually, I don't really believe in "normal life". Even "ordinary life" has extraordinary elements in it. I was probably hankering after the opportunity to just read a few books, and join the local knitting circle.

Bare is obviously a very personal album, but how much is actually autobiographical? Are the songs all, to some extent, fictionalised?
Clare Mears, e-mail

I don't know. Everything that I've ever written comes from my own thoughts, feelings and observations. I never seem to know what I'm going to write about before I've actually started it. It's only when I've finished that I can look back and assess some kind of deeper meaning. The songs on Bare were never intended to be "autobiographical". I just sat down to write and these songs emerged. They're deep, and sometimes come from a painful place. What's new?

What's your idea of a perfect day?
Ben Paulsen, Hawick

A perfect day has to start with perfect health. It also has to be a day in which things run smoothly; where you simply feel blissfully happy and at peace within yourself for no particular reason. It might include waking up in a very comfortable bed, after having had a good night's sleep. The weather would have to be either gloriously warm and sunny, or deep and crisp and even.(No in-between grey or drizzle.) There would have to be no pressure to do anything in particular, and lots of time to choose whatever took your fancy, which could include having a leisurely breakfast without having to do the washing-up.

I think I might locate this perfect day in one of the great cities in the world - Rome, Paris or New York. There would have to be some window-shopping, a visit to a small museum, an art gallery or a local flea-market. The evening could include watching an inspiring film, or a meal in a good restaurant, with a bottle of red wine to share with stimulating and empathetic company. And a perfect ending to this perfect day would be to drift effortlessly into a deep sleep.

You always look striking on stage. How meticulous are you when you're just popping out to the shops?
Jon Tilley, Saffron Walden

I am extremely meticulous in preparing myself to go to the local shops. One's public has the right to see one at one's best, so I always wear full make-up, and take care that my outfits reflect whatever the next fashion trend is going to be. Icons will (and must) be icons. Strong women must stand up and be counted as individual examples of innovation, style and grooming... don't you think, readers?

What, if any, are the benefits of dressing androgynously? And when you do, do you still feel feminine?
Jack Lumsden, Telford

The benefits of wearing trousers are manifold. Think of the comfort factor, and then think of the money saved on all those pairs of tights that didn't get laddered. Then you can always pretend that you're a man (symbolically wearing the trousers... get it?), and you can really rule the roost, getting away with a whole load of bad behaviour. I like jeans these days. Now those are trousers for boys and girls. Feminine comes in all kinds of shapes, forms and sizes. Since I was born feminine, then I must feel feminine, too, whatever that means.

Have you ever considered devoting your life entirely to one of the causes that you feel very strongly about, such as freedom for Tibet?
Jules Edwards, Reading

At the moment I am still trying to keep the plates spinning daily. It's called "single mother trying to keep balance in her life". I've noticed a lot of women doing this, although the habit still doesn't seem to have quite caught on with too many men. When the time is right, I will definitely devote myself in a more focused way to the most appropriate cause.

As you sang, everybody's looking for something. What are you looking for?
William Lacey, by e-mail

I'm looking for different things at different times, depending on my state of mind or situation. I guess it would be fair to say that it would be nice to find peace and love, but, hey, I'm still practising.

Annie Lennox's album 'Bare' is out now on the BMG label

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