Eurythmics

  • Biography:

    Eurythmics were perhaps the greatest of the early-'80s British synth-pop bands, mixing a cynically business- and image-conscious approach with a sometimes soulful, mournful sound. Although Dave Stewart's studio wizardry provided the band's foundation, Annie Lennox's theatrical appearance and beautiful, icy wail ultimately were the duo's calling cards.

    Lennox grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland, the only daughter of a bagpipe-playing shipyard worker. Her piano- and flute-playing skills won her a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, but she quit on the eve of finals, disgusted with the school's pretensions. She spent three years working odd jobs in London and playing with a folk-rock band, a jazz-rock group, and a cabaret duo. A friend introduced her to Dave Stewart.

    Stewart came from an upper-middle-class family in Northern England. By the early '70s his band Longdancer was signed to Elton John's Rocket Records but never accomplished anything. He then played in a variety of groups, which ranged from soul to medieval music. When he met Lennox he was writing music with a recluse named Peet Coombes.

    Lennox and Stewart immediately began a musical and romantic partnership. With Coombes they formed a band called Catch, which shortly became the Tourists. The Tourists' three albums (The Tourists, 1979; Reality Effect, 1979; Luminous Basement, 1980) mixed folk, psychedelia, and new wave. A cover of the Dusty Springfield hit "I Only Want to Be With You" was a big hit in England (Number Four U.K., 1979), but barely made it into the U.S. Hot 100 (Number 83, 1980).

    When the band disintegrated in late 1980, so did Lennox and Stewart's romance. They continued to work together, however, and named their partnership after Eurythmics, a system of music instruction developed in the 1890s that emphasizes physical response. Their debut was recorded in Germany and featured Blondie drummer Clem Burke, members of Can and DAF, and Marcus Stockhausen, son of the avant-garde composer. Despite good reviews, it was weakly supported by their label.

    Lennox and Stewart were committed to making the Eurythmics a solid business and artistic venture, however. In a makeshift studio that Stewart set up, they recorded Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (Number 15, 1983), using an 8-track recorder and synthesizers. Though the first British single, "Love Is a Stranger," attracted some attention in clubs, it was the title track (Number One) that propelled the band to stardom.

    As the singer for the Tourists, Lennox was a platinum blonde often called the British Blondie. Sick of that dolly image, Lennox wore an orange crewcut and a man's suit in the Eurythmics' early work. When the band performed at the 1984 Grammys, she dressed like Elvis. In the video for "Who's That Girl?" she plays a chanteuse who leaves a club with her butch alter-ego; at the end, she-Annie kisses he-Annie.

    Touch (Number Seven, 1983) yielded "Here Comes the Rain Again" (Number Four, 1984), but Eurythmics' next release, the soundtrack for 1984 (the film based on George Orwell's novel), was a disappointment. The film's director complained on a televised awards show that he had been forced to use the band's music, and the single "Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-four)" was widely misinterpreted. Lennox suffered another public humiliation when she married a Hare Krishna and divorced him a year later. But Be Yourself Tonight (Number Nine, 1985) returned the band to the public grace, showcasing Lennox's soulful vocals in a duet with Aretha Franklin, "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" (Number 18, 1985). The album also yielded the hit single "Would I Lie to You" (Number Five, 1985). On Revenge (Number 12, 1986), the Eurythmics went for an arena-rock sound and produced their last Top 20 single, "Missionary Man" (Number 14, 1986).

    In 1987 Stewart married singer Siobhan Fahey, formerly of Bananarama and later half of the duo Shakespear's Sister. Many critics considered the Eurythmics to have run out of steam on We Too Are One (Number 34, 1989), so it was not surprising when Lennox announced that she was taking a couple years off from music to work for a homeless charity. She had delivered a stillborn baby in 1988 and wanted to devote time to her family (she is married to filmmaker Uri Fruchtmann, with whom she's since had two children). In 1992 she released Diva (Number 23, 1992), a platinum-selling solo album that received three Grammy nominations. Stewart, meanwhile, had already released one soundtrack album, Lily Was Here, and put together the band Spiritual Cowboys, which included drummer Martin Chambers (Pretenders). He has also produced records for Daryl Hall, Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan. In 1995 Stewart released his first real solo album, Greetings From the Gutter>, a modern Ziggy Stardust–like opus with a funky backing band (Bootsy Collins is on bass). A pop-rock followup, Sly-Fi, appeared in 1998.

    Lennox and Stewart hadn't spoken with each other for four years when she called in 1997 to inform him of the death of their former Tourists bandmate, Peet Coombes. The conversation got the duo talking again; later, while rehearsing for an acoustic performance at a party for a mutual friend, they began writing new material together. Peace (1999), the album that grew out of those sessions, was the first new Eurythmics LP in 10 years and found Lennox's supple, powerful alto fully intact. It also eschewed the catchy, electro-pop of the duo's '80s heyday in favor of lushly orchestrated ballads focusing on the pair's musical and prior romantic partnership. After the record's release, Stewart and Lennox played a series of dates, most of them in Europe, the proceeds of which went to Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

    This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).