Annie’s love life back on track
She’s rock’n’roll royalty and now there’s another new man in Lennox’s world
WHEN the harassed waitress placed the trendy vegetarian dish in front of a young folk singer called Dave stewart, still some way from Eurythmics superstardom, he looked up at Annie Lennox and blurted out: ‘Marry me!’ To this day, nearly four decades on, he is unable to explain his impetuosity – or why they never did walk down the aisle.
It was 1976, and in a restaurant in Hampstead, London, when Sunderland-born stewart laid eyes for the first time on the statuesque scots girl who was already showing signs of the luminous, if androgynous, beauty which would mature, endure, and make the two of them famous and wealthy beyond their dreams. Miss Lennox, as passionately pessimistic at 22 as she is at 57, harrumphed and walked away. But the young music student and would-be singer offered a backward glance and a smile which hinted she might allow him to become the first significant man in her life.
And so it came to pass. But it did not end with wedding bells – and her love affair with stewart would be over by the time they had gone through several musical incarnations to erupt onto the 1980s music scene as Eurythmics.
Friends of the stars still suggest stewart is the one that got away from Miss Lennox – and both have since admitted it was a painful parting f r om which t hey never r eally recovered.
But they would remain together professionally for a decade of success, in which stewart was svengali to the complex, troubled star until she ‘left’ him to pursue an award-laden solo career. From this she racked up record sales of 80million and a fortune of £30million, which has never managed to make her truly happy.
Those who know her best reveal she has carried a ‘bleak sensibility’ from childhood into middle age – through the separation from stewart, the loss of her first child and two failed marriages that led her to declare she would never again marry as searching for ‘ romantic love’ was fruitless.
BuT something has happened to the singer who has the distinction of being the most successful female artist in uK music history. Friends say the Aberdeen boilermaker’s daughter who once ‘lived up a close’ in a tenement with an outside toilet has discovered her Holy Grail of love, respect, admiration and romance with a tall, handsome south African doctor whose compassion and commitment to good causes matches her own.
At the age of 57, after being on her own for 12 years since the collapse of her second marriage, to Israeli film producer uri Fruchtman, Miss Lennox is expected to go for thirdtime-lucky by marrying gynaecologist Dr Mitch Besser, 57, who runs a charity in his homeland dedicated to preventing the spread of Aids from pregnant mothers to their babies.
The work of the divorced father of two sons has been lauded globally, particularly in the us where, in 2008, he was presented with a Presidential Medal by George Bush.
A friend says of the new relationship: ‘It is perfect. Annie has, for a long time, disdained marriage, claiming she isn’t “built” for it. she hasn’t seen the point and believed that relationships with men were hugely disappointing for the majority of women.
‘For years, Annie, the perfectionist and perennial worrier, has been unwilling to risk the possibility of hurt and abandonment – but she has changed her tune since meeting Mitch in 2009, when she visited one of his projects as a uN Aids ambassador.’
Miss Lennox has been seeing the medic, who created the Mothers2Mothers charity, for more than a year and they were photographed this week near her Victorian mansion in London’s Notting Hill.
‘They are in love, comfortable with each other,’ says another friend. ‘They are the same age, with the same value system, t he same commitment.
‘Annie is a tireless campaigner for everything from Aids, the environment, justice for Palestine, Tibetan freedom and even Burmese prisoners of conscience. Mitch i s equally dedicated to alleviating suffering in Africa through the transmission of the disease from HIV-positive mothers. He’s stolen her heart. It’s been a long road and this is the real deal.’
Yet she has been here twice before. Her first choice of husband was radha raman, a Hare Krishna ‘monk’. she married him in 1984, a month after meeting him while on tour with Eurythmics. It was a distinctly odd pairing – the postpunk chanteuse and the squat, retiring German-born devotee of eastern mysticism.
They met when the band was in Germany. raman’s Hare Krishna group prepared vegetarian dishes for the group and, when Miss Lennox developed a throat infection, he concocted a homeopathic ‘ cure’. After that, the Krishnas travelled with the band throughout Europe, and she and her spiritual friend were soon in love.
Miss Lennox became a vegetarian and began learning Krishna chants. The couple married in a spur-of-themoment ceremony in New York and she vowed to keep the relationship away from the spotlight, saying: ‘My life is so public, I must keep him private.’
she appeared at parties, ceremonies and events without him and never took him home to Aberdeen to meet her parents, Tom and Dorothy, both of whom have since succumbed to cancer.
Meanwhile, raman became a forlorn figure in the background of her life and, when the marriage collapsed after a year, few were surprised. Miss Lennox appeared to escape unscathed, jettisoning raman’s philosophy and putting on a brave face when she said: ‘ Perhaps I was impetuous.’
But, privately, the singer, who never indulged in the casual relationships associated with the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle of bands on the road, mourned the end of the marriage.
‘Life on the road really suits egotistical men but it wasn’t my scene,’ she said. ‘It was like the party was going on in another room.’
The image of gender-bender, feminist strength which characterised her videos and live performances is just an image: ‘I’m quite a domesticated person. I’m human. I feel what anybody feels, but there is a difference between what I do on stage and what I do in my life.’
Miss Lennox’s moral compass dictated it would be another three years before she found love with uri Fruchtman, the producer of films such as An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest and the spice Girls movie, spice World.
THE marriage would last longer than her first and produce two much-loved daughters – Lola, now 22, and Tali, 19. But from the beginning the relationship was touched by tragedy. The couple’s first child, Daniel, was still-born in 1988, the year she married.
Miss Lennox recalls: ‘At t he hospital, they tried to monitor the heartbeat but couldn’t find it. Within an hour of going into labour, I found out my baby was dead.’
Afterwards, the star asked for Daniel’s body to be washed and wrapped in a shawl so that she could at least hold her child. His death was a devastating blow to a woman who longed to be a mother, and claims that since the death of her parents her ‘girls’ are the most important thing in her life.
‘I don’t believe in guilt-tripping them,’ says the singer, who recognises her ‘good works’ on behalf of a
troubled world might lead her children to look askance. ‘They have values but they see me coming and say: “Oh God! She’s at it again. Mum’s off saving the world.”
‘But do you know when I’m happy? It’s when I’m doing simple things. Most nights, I eat with my girls. It’s important to sit with them, listen to what they say.’
She also ‘ works hard’ at being happy, admitting that she has probably always experienced a ‘ sense of loss’, saying: ‘ I can’t pinpoint it but I’ve always been melancholic. My parents are dead and the family now is my girls. They give me joy. I need to find meaning in my life to make me happy, and that’s been a challenge.’
Finding a meaning in her life has been a challenge since Ann Griselda Lennox was born on Christmas Day 1954 in Aberdeen’s Summerfield Maternity hospital. Legend has it she grew up in poverty but in fact the only child of Tom and Dorothy Lennox was anything but poor.
Young Annie was educated at Aberdeen High School for Girls and sent for piano and flute lessons. She recalls childhood as ‘warm and safe’, but even as a child her concern for the world was evident: ‘You become conscious when you’re a kid that the world is a bad place.’
Friends say she has carried that bleak sensibility into adulthood, and it is arguably the reason why, now that she is rich and famous, she has used her global profile and influence for good.
LONG-TIME friends talk of a ‘black cloud’ which has hung over her since her teens, while she herself admits: ‘The world is a heartbreaking place. At 14, I felt melancholy. I thought the world was so heavy. And it is!’
Her f ears were i n some part relieved by music and she showed promise as not only a pianist and flautist but as a singer, winning a talent contest at a Butlins holiday camp singing Mairi’s Wedding. But in her bedroom she was singing along to the stars of the era – The Beatles, Dusty Springfield and Joni Mitchell, who she credits as the performer who proved that a poetsinger could become a pop star.
Her first musical ambition was to become a classical flautist and at the age of 17 she arrived in London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. But after three years of study, she left before her ‘finals’. Later she explained: ‘I wasn’t gifted enough and I didn’t identify with people.’
She stayed in London, singing with bands in pubs and with another girl as the Stocking Tops. She augmented her earnings working in a bookshop – and then the restaurant, where her meeting with Stewart would forever change her life.
Soon they discovered they had musical as well as romantic compatibility. In their first band, from 1977 until 1980, she was the keyboard player and girl singer of The Tourists, sharing the vocals with songwriter Peet Coombes while Stewart played guitar.
By the time the band broke up, so had her relationship with Stewart, but they stayed together to form Eurythmics – and the rest is pop history.
The duo enjoyed a string of hits such as Sweet Dreams, Love Is A Stranger, Here Comes the Rain Again, Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves and There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart).
BY 1983, they had conquered the UK and US charts – but behind the success there remained the pain of their love split, of which Stewart remarked: ‘It was like cutting off my legs. It took eight years to untangle – a complicated relationship.’
Their entanglement meant that for a long time they could not form a relationship with anyone else. She says: ‘It was tough, really tough. When I look back, it was almost like a lost decade in terms of my emotional life. It was a mess. I was not in a good space. I was very, very isolated.’ It is a sense of isolation that she has suffered from for most of her life, arguably being the greatest barrier to finding true love and jaundicing her view of relationships.
She says: ‘You need a kindred spirit. I certainly have felt that throughout my life. I need to be with someone who understands me. So if that is not available, it is immensely harrowing.
‘To share one’s life with someone is a beautiful thing. But I haven’t made a great job of it in the past. It is pretty challenging to share my world.’
A friend adds: ‘Annie was a woman fighting a whole series of conflicts – a relatively poor child who is now a multimillionaire, a young woman who fell in love with Dave Stewart and then had to cope with losing him. She has been a wife and a mother who loved and then lost a baby.
‘Being her – and with her – is challenging. It i s, however, a challenge which Mitch Besser is relishing.’
Strictly professional: With Dave StewartSecond husband: Producer Uri Fruchtman
New love: Dr Mitch Besser with the 57-year-old Scottish superstar