For your consideration, a blonde British female vocalist with a soulful singing style who is a musical innovator, composer and social activist. Only two women come to my mind when I hear that description. One is the legendary Dusty Springfield. The other can only be the remarkable Annie Lennox.
The British part is, I must admit, not wholly accurate in that Ms. Lennox was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on Christmas Day, 1954. It was in the U.K. that she began her musical training and professional life. In 1971 at the age of 17 she won a place at The Royal Academy Of Music In London, where she studied flute and classical music history. In 1976 Lennox spent a short time as the flautist for a local band called The Devil's Playground. She then got her first hint of fame when she began to collaborate with guitarist David Stewart in a moderately successful band called The Tourists between the years of 1977 and 1980. She was the lead vocalist for that band which was best known for, quite appropriately, a nicely rendered cover of Dusty Springfield's classic hit, "I Only Want To Be With You".
Lennox's profile was raised quite a bit higher with her second collaboration with Stewart as the 80s-era synth-pop duo The Eurythmics. Early on in the duo's career, a defining element of Lennox's stage persona was her androgyny, wearing men's suits and close-cropped hair. Another more enduring aspect was the emergence of her smoky, soulful alto voice. Their first album, 1981's In The Garden sold modestly. It was Their second LP, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) that launched them into superstardom, going on to selling over 75 million albums with over 20 international hit singles, such as the aforementioned album's title track followed by others such as "Love Is A Stranger", "Here Comes The Rain Again", "Would I Lie To You" and
"Missionary Man". They ended up being one of the definitive acts in the 80s new wave movement.
Though The Eurythmics never officialy disbanded, Lennox made a clear break with Stewart in 1990, beginning a long and successful career as a solo artist. Lennox and Stewart did pair up again in the late 90s to record the album Peace with all new material. A subsequent concert tour was completed with profits going to Greenpeace and Amnesty International.
In 1990 Lennox released her debut solo album Diva, which entered the U.K. charts at #1 and sold close to six million copies worldwide with nearly half of those in the United States. It contained three top 10 singles, "Why", "Little Bird" and "Walking On Broken Glass"
A truly gifted performer, Annie Lennox brings to the table a big, arresting stage presence and a uniquely soulful approach to her own material and that of others. In 1992 she performed with David Bowie at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in London's Wembley Stadium. Her bravura performance of "Under Pressure" with Bowie and the surviving members of Queen convinced me that she would have been a great choice to succeed the late great Mercury in that band. The idea of her taking on songs like "Bohemian Rapshody", "Somebody To Love" or even "Tie Your Mother Down"...well, one can dream...
Lennox followed Diva with two more solo albums, Medusa and Bare, both again received critical acclaim and sales in the millions. Medusa also debuted at #1 and contained the Grammy Award-winning single, "No More I Love Yous". Her fourth solo outing, 2007's much-anticipated Songs Of Mass Destruction featured a track called "SING" where she is joined by 23 of the industry's biggest female superstars who were invited to appear on the record to help bring attention to the HIV-AIDS pandemic, particularly in South Africa where women and children are most affected. Approaching it's fourth anniversary, the SING campaign continues to raise money to help stop the spread of the disease.
Annie Lennox's work with the SING campaign is only a part of her humanitarian work. Having achieved the status of worldwide superstar, it indeed seems that half the time she spends onstage is dedicated in some way to a worthy cause. In addition to her HIV-AIDS activism, she has been a supporter of Amnesty International and Greenpeace for many years. She led a rally against the Gaza War in London January 3, 2009. She is an ambassador for Oxfam, The British Red Cross and Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign as well as numerous other organizations. Suffice it to say, the lady has become known for putting her time, influence and yes, her money where her mouth is.
As you can imagine, such wide-ranging philantropy does not go unnoticed or unacknowledged. Annie Lennox was awarded an Office of The Order Of The British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for her charitable works on June 28, 2011. Other recognition includes The Red Cross Humanitarian Award in 2008, The Nobel Lauterates' Woman Of Peace Awards in 2009, The Johnny Walker Charity Award in 2010, and too many more to list.
Music career-wise, she's received 8 Brit Awards (the most of any female artist), 4 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, an American Music Award, a Golden Globe and a Billboard Century Award. All told, she is one of, if not the most decorated musical artists ever. Not to mention, the girl can sing.