When Annie Lennox first took piano she encountered a remarkable teacher in her hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland. “Mrs. Murray’s hands were imbued with a special life force.” But when Annie once attended class having strung together a rash of appearances where her lack of rehearsals was obvious her teacher gave her perhaps the best advice. In a draconian moment. “You know I should just put a bomb under you.”
What may have seemed like a harsh critique soon become a wakeup call for Annie.
“I carried that bomb under me,” Annie admits, through time, “it became a part of me.” Throughout her musical career Annie’s voice has resounded wherever one seems to have travelled.
Seems the Eurythmics, a name she invented after a dance teacher’s class in school called eurhrythmic, were everywhere with such a pulsating beat where people shopped in plazas. Were migrating to, and enjoying, waves along a beach. Moving stridently to piped-in music on buses, in train stations, and, airports.
Where Annie’s magnificent thunderous crescendos made it seem as if (ie. Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This) she was a true aboriginal. Creating enough vibrancy with her voice capable of opening heaven above with a refreshing rainfall. However that was Annie in her days of Rock n Roll. Rhythm and Blues adaptions with so many other notable musicians and star studded days on the Pop Charts.
“Now, though I’m getting older (age 59),” Annie commented on radio recently, “I still want to make new music.” Growing up in the British Isles she never encountered America’s songbook of Jazz classics. Her formative years revolved around whatever pop tunes her small radio might connect with on the BBC. The Hollies, Dave Clark Five, Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, the Stones, Aretha Franklin and those early times. When Annie speaks of her first purchase of her own soundtracks, as a young girl, she remembers both Mary Poppins and Whiter Shade of Pale by the English band Procol Harum. Annie listened to them often.
“Mary Poppins was so magical,” she was very cleverly animating a re- telling recently while in Los Angeles. “I mean it opened doors to what music could be. Changing childrens’ lives.” “While A Whiter Shade was a turning point,” she’s emphatic about its deliverance in her musical ascendancy. “It was so mystical.” Later Inclining Annie to make her recording of it on her Medusa album.
“It took me from being a young girl to a young singer going forward.” However on a furlough into South Africa not long ago Annie was thinking of a time when she first worked with a conductor who knew Jazz. That was Herbie Hancock. They had rehearsed a little while on stage in Washington, D.C. This became the indelible drive to search out many of those 20th composers and singers who were the lightning rods transforming a startlingly new music scene. It became this newly found wealth of something that evolved into a password on with the American attachment to music’s newest form: “just listen to all that jazz!”
Having first been thrilled attending concerts by Duke Ellington, and his Band, in my first year in College in the USA it’s easy to imagine Annie being captured by Ellington’s waves of inspiration with music moulded in a unique form. Thus, her homage to the ongoing spirit and development of jazz musicians has recently been released as: NOSTALGIA.
Ending, so appropriately, with her slow swing-time rendition of Ellington’s Mood Indigo. With the lovely almost intangible lyrics, “where…mood…goes stealing down to my shoes.” Annie’s Nostalgia collection is bound to make its 21st Century mark with how unequivocally she has sifted, and sorted, through iconic compositions that become her unique ‘take’ on every song. Again as she discussed on her tour of the album last week, “can we imagine one singing: London? or, Blackpool? to begin what Hoagy Carmichael wrote as the mellow intro to Georgia? No, it has to be that.
These songs really do take us down South. Deep, very deeply, into the heart of America.” Other beautiful, and serene, slices of Annie’s nuances as one of Scotland ‘s finest songbirds are heralded in the absolute starburst clarity of her voice’s cadence wafting over this production from start to finish. There’s a host of memorable favourites known by our parents, and grandparents, right there. So enticingly afresh. With a shrouded echo of 1930’s band leader Sammy Fain the first voice one hears as a background lead into her first song. Her anthology includes: The Nearness of You, Memphis In June, I Walk The Waterfront, and, Billie Holiday’s Southern Fruit. Canadian Daniel Levitin, music specialist and professor at McGill University, writes in his book This Is Your Brain On Music, “whenever humans came together throughout history music was such a part of the fabric of their every day life.”
Annie Lennox has—quite magically—with an ascendant skill. inside her craft, re-addressed all that jazz. What once was in the life of American composers and singers like Gershwin, and, Ray Charles. Listening to Nostalgia it’s a given Annie has very eloquently stitched together renditions of music the Library of Congress calls ‘keep sake songs.’
Nostalgia’s impassioned tunes –to that point–are truly ‘a keeper’ in our time.