As today is World AIDS Day, I wanted to shine a light on one of the music world’s most tireless advocates for those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Annie Lennox.
Long dedicated to humanitarian causes (with Eurythmics partner Dave Stewart, she supported Amnesty International and Greenpeace), Lennox was invited in 2003 to perform at an AIDS charity concert hosted by former South African president Nelson Mandela. Hearing him talk about the millions who’d died there from the disease, and particularly jolted by Mandela’s labeling the loss as a genocide, Lennox was inspired to take personal action.
In 2007, she established The SING Campaign, a non-profit dedicated to combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Campaigning around the world for AIDS prevention and access to sound medical treatment (particularly for women and children), Lennox has continued to combat the stigma that continues to surround the disease, often by wearing an “HIV Positive” T-shirt. Bold and badass, even when she’s not on stage.
Lennox memorably gathered an all-star choir of top female artists (including Madonna, Celine Dion, Sarah McLachlan, and Pink) to record “Sing,” a empowerment anthem she’d penned that helped to introduce The SING Campaign (now celebrating its fourth anniversary). But it’s Lennox’s cover of another song that I find appropriate to feature today.
In 2005, Lennox recorded Paula Cole’s “Hush, Hush, Hush”(originally a duet with Peter Gabriel on This Fire) for Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities. Later included on the limited edition of 2009′s The Annie Lennox Collection, she recalled her collaboration with the legendary jazz pianist in the album’s liner note
“I bumped into Herbie backstage on the Sacred Love tour, and I said, ‘Come on then, when are you going to invite me to sing with you?!’ So he asked if I’d like to record this song, which is actually about a young man dying of AIDS, who’s trying to resolve the ‘disconnect’ with his father before he leaves the planet. Very deep, and filled with heartache and regret. Totally my kinda song.”
So in honor of all the friends, loved ones, neighbors, and complete strangers we’ve lost to AIDS in the 30 years since the disease was first discovered, please stop whatever multi-tasking you might be doing and take a moment to remember them by listening to the amazing Annie Lennox sing “Hush, Hush, Hush.” (You might also want to be in easy reach of a tissue or two.)
Now head over to (2015)QUILT to pledge to fight for an AIDS-free generation by 2015. And if you don’t know your status — one of every five people living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware — find a testing center here.
Returning to the recording of “Hush, Hush, Hush,” there’s a great behind-the-scenes video of the recording session that’s worth watching. The song’s story and meaning were initially lost on Lennox, Hancock, and team, but ultimately a phone call to Paula Cole provided the details (for me, just one look at the lyrics told me everything).