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Flashback: Hear Annie Lennox’s ‘Sing,’ Dedicated to AIDS Genocide Awareness

World AIDS Day tribute song included Celine Dion, Gladys Knight, Pink, Faith Kill, k.d. lang, Sarah McLachlan, Shakira, Bonnie Raitt, Joss Stone and Madonna

A track off her 2007 album Songs of Mass Destruction, “Sing” was inspired by Annie Lennox’s first meeting with South African activist Zackie Achmat at Nelson Mandela’s 46664 HIV/AIDS campaign in 2003. HIV positive himself, Achmat co-founded the Treatment Action Campaign, an organization that fights for AIDS treatment access and prevention.

“We need people like [Achmat], he fights the fight,” Lennox told the BBC in 2007. “He refused to take his anti-retroviral medication unless it was made affordable and available to everyone — a hugely courageous thing to do. Before then, I’d been frustrated because I wanted to be more hands-on. I just feel that TAC are doing it where it needs to happen. It really needed to be given support, and I thought that perhaps I might be well-placed to do it.”

Emboldened by Achmat’s work, she began writing a song that also incorporated a tune called “Jikelele,” given to her by a group of South African activists called the Generics.

Having completed the basic track, Lennox reached out to high profile women in music, asking them to send in a tape of themselves singing the “Sing my sister Sing! / Let your voice be heard” refrain. “I wrote down a mission statement and sent a letter to a list of women that I thought would be really good contenders,” she told the New York Times. Nearly all responded, resulting in a chorus of 23, including Celine Dion, Gladys Knight, Pink, Faith Kill, k.d. lang, Sarah McLachlan, Shakira, Bonnie Raitt, Joss Stone and Madonna — who added a little extra.

“Lo and behold, Madonna’s track came back and she’d sung the second verse, which was a huge bonus,” Lennox continued. “I was really touched, for Madonna is very rigorous in what she gets involved in and for her to do that for me, I was thrilled to bits.”

The single version was released on December 1st, World AIDS Day, in 2007, with proceeds going towards TAC. The cover came emblazoned with a manifesto from the artist, reading: “Several years ago, I personally witnessed Nelson Mandela standing in front of his former prison cell on Robben Island, addressing the world’s press. His message was that the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa was, in fact, a genocide. Since that time I resolved to do as much as I can to bring attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis.”

In This Article: Annie Lennox, World AIDS Day

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