In a 2014 interview, Annie Lennox stated that music is the most emotional means to connect with people. Since splitting from the Eurythmics, Annie Lennox has mostly preferred making cover versions of songs rather than doing her own music. Her soulful, flexible voice lends itself to wide variety of musical styles, from the Great American Songbook to opera arias. She often does not do a straight cover, but varies it to the point where the song becomes more hers than the original songwriter’s. Here are Annie Lennox’s best covers of other artists’ songs, connecting people to others through the emotions brought about by music.
# 10 – Strange Fruit
This Abel Meeropol song, first recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, is one of Annie Lennox’s favorite songs. She’s called it “a courageous piece of art. It silenced people. It shamed people.” And, sadly, it’s still as pertinent today as it was in 1939. So, it’s no surprise that Strange Fruit was added to the line-up of Nostalgia, her live concert album from 2014. Backed by an orchestra heavy on somber strings, flute and piano, Annie Lennox’s voice is the star to highlight the poignant lyrics. She does not try to mimic Billie Holliday, but puts her own stamp on the song.
# 9 – Hallelujah
Sometimes Annie Lennox performs cover versions of songs that she never actually goes into a studio and records. One such song is one of the most covered songs ever – the late, great Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. In the video below, she performed this in 2007 at Taratata, France during her Sing tour. The arrangement is simple, as befitting the song. It’s just Annie Lennox’s soaring voice, two background singers, piano and guitar. She’s also performed this live elsewhere, including Europe 1 and her Instagram page with just her and her piano. One day, it may make it to an Annie Lennox album. Leonard Cohen loved it when women singers did his songs, so we think he would have loved Annie Lennox’s version.
# 8 – God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Ever thought there was something just a wee bit sinister about Christmas? Then this is song if for you. Here, Annie Lennox takes the beloved sixteenth century carol and shines it through a glass darkly. She adds layers of harmony, an a cappella first verse and blends percussion-heavy electronic and traditional instruments to give a driving beat. She also adds an echo and ululations to her vocals. Overall, it gives the carol a dark and ominous feel. This is a song that mentions “Satan’s powers”, after all. This was a single for her 2010 album A Christmas Cornucopia.
# 7 – Whiter Shade of Pale
Much trippier than the original classic by Procol Harum, Annie Lennox imbibes this song like a drug and exhales it into medicine for the ears. Procol Harum seemed a little, shall we say, sedated during their performance, but Annie Lennox is wide awake in being wrapped up the weird experience of singing this song to a heavily electronic arrangement. This was the second single from Medusa.
# 6 – Fragile
In 2017, Sting won the Polar Music Prize, which is a really big deal in Europe. In a surprise, Annie Lennox appeared and performed “Fragile” with just her voice and piano. She fiddled with the tune a little, giving a much more somber side than even Sting did, breaking her voice once on the word “fragile.” After she was done, Annie Lennox apologized, “I tried.” No apologies necessary, Annie. Sting gave her a standing O. The video below is misidentified as “Shape of My Heart”. Hopefully, this song may make a future Annie Lennox album or box set.
# 5 – River Deep, Mountain High
It takes a lot of guts for any singer to try a Tina Turner classic, but Annie Lennox is one of the few singers that sing it as good as Tina Turner. She doesn’t do any radical reinterpretation here, but so what? Her voice is the magic. She performed this during her set for the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1992, which was also broadcast as an MTV Unplugged episode. The song was written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barre and Elle Greenwich for Ike and Tina Turner back in 1966. Annie Lennox spontaneously began singing this during rehearsal for the set and the other musicians convinced her to add it to the set.
# 4 – Keep Young and Beautiful
This seemed, at first, to be a very odd choice to round off the CD version of Diva, her first solo album, but in hindsight, it was a perfect choice. Annie Lennox has been an activist for many causes, including women’s rights. So, she chose this sexist song from 1933 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren showing just what women have to put up with. It was also a sly commentary on what Annie Lennox had to put up with in show business, where looks are everything. Especially poignant is the sad way she says the last word, “loved” to the happy faux-1930’s music.
# 3 – Dido’s Lament
Annie Lennox remembered “Dido’s Lament” from her days at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She recorded a version of this track during the sessions for 2010’s A Christmas Cornucopia, but since this was not a Christmas song, it was dropped from the album and placed in a drawer for ten years. When Annie Lennox’s record label wanted to do a special 10th anniversary release, her team went through the archives to see if there were any alternate tracks to place on the special edition. And found this. Annie Lennox did a new recordings with the London City Voices to raise money for Greenpeace. This aria was written by Harry Purcell for the 1689 opera Dido and Aeneas.
# 2 – Under Pressure
No one could approach the unique voice of Freddie Mercury, but David Bowie tapped Annie Lennox to perform Freddie Mercury’s part in “Under Pressure” for the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. She not only wowed the crowd that memorable night, but made David Bowie pop open wide his differently-shaded blue eyes. It’s a perfect performance of, arguably, the perfect song.
# 1 – No More I Love You’s
This is one of those covers thought to be written by Annie Lennox since her performance was so masterful. The song was actually written by David Freeman and Joseph Hughes, who were also the original performers in a short-lived New Wave group, The Lover Speaks. This is a challenging song that demands an exceptional voice. In other words, it fits perfectly for Annie Lennox’s voice. Her version slightly slowed things down and changed the arrangement to give it a more unsettled feeling. She also adds a part where she speaks in a little girl’s voice. This became the best hit from her first album of covers, 1995’s Medusa. No was surprised that she would win the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for this track.
Annie Lennox’s Best Covers of Other Artists’ Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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