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Connect the World

Interview with Annie Lennox

Aired June 08, 2010 - 16:49   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, HOST (voice-over): She's always had a big voice, but recently, Annie Lennox has been using it to draw attention to her cause. The award winning singer has just been named the U.N. AIDS ambassador, the latest development in her long fight to raise awareness about the disease.


MICHEL SIDIBE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNAIDS: We want Annie Lennox to be this goodwill ambassador, who will bring this debate into communities and make sure that the prevention measures will be heard.



ANDERSON: The Scottish born Lennox has been politically active for much of her 30 year singing career. She first catapulted to fame as part of the pop duo, Eurythmics, with Dave Stewart. Their song, "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This," became an instant classic and put Lennox on the map forever.


ANDERSON: After going solo, Lennox went on to produce five best- selling albums with hits such as "Why" and "Shining Light."


ANDERSON: Early on in her career, Lennox decided to use her celebrity to bring attention to causes she believed in. She's been a staunch anti- war activist and has teamed up with Nelson Mandela's 46664 Campaign to encourage better education on HIV.


ANDERSON: A global voice in every sense, Annie Lennox is your Connector of the Day.



ANDERSON: Well, I caught up with Annie in Washington.

And I started by asking her if she thinks the battle against HIV/AIDS is getting the attention that it needs from the international community.

And this is what she said.


ANNIE LENNOX, SINGER, UNAIDS INTERNATIONAL GOODWILL AMBASSADOR: I can't understand why the front pages of newspapers can cover bird flu and swine flu and everybody is up in arms about that and we still haven't really woken up to the fact that so many women in sub-Saharan Africa -- 60 percent of people in -- infected with HIV are women. Now, that is my gender. I identify with women. And I've been given so many privileges in my life -- education. A privilege. Clean running water. A privilege. Access to good medication. A privilege.

So I feel that it is down to me or people like myself, who've had those privileges, to understand that we must speak up for the women that don't have access, they don't have a voice. And so it's a -- it's a great privilege for me to be doing something like this.

ANDERSON: Well, you also prioritize those women and children who are HIV-positive and have AIDS in areas that perhaps people have been forgotten, that have been swept under the carpet -- in London, in Paris, in Madrid, you know, in Zurich.

LENNOX: Absolutely. HIV/AIDS has no boundaries. And it is transmitted heterosexually. It isn't just a gay plague that we thought about back in the '80s and that we think is over now. And this is a real danger -- our complacency about it. And, you know, the other issue is stigma. We think that there is only stigma in Africa. We don't really -- well, we're above stigma.

No, no, no. It's not true. In my own country, in Scotland, where I went to Edinboro last year, I met a young boy who was HIV-positive and his mother also. They couldn't disclose their status to -- even to their close friends. They were too afraid that, in some way, they would be stigmatized.

So one of the tools that I use -- and you -- you referred to it earlier, about me wearing my famous HIV-positive t-shirt -- is to actually just simply address the issue. Here it is -- HIV-positive.

What do you think about that?

I want people to start thinking about what it means to be HIV-positive and to ask questions about -- about that.

What would it mean to you if your sister was HIV-positive?

Would you shun your sister or would you bring her in and would you -- would you be considerate?

ANDERSON: Let me put some viewer questions to you, Annie.

Ivan from Sydney says: "What will your definition of a successful tenure as ambassador for U.N. AIDS be?"

LENNOX: I would like to see the reduction of the mortality of women, first and foremost. You see, when in a country like South Africa, when you have one in three pregnant women carrying the HIV virus, if they get access to mother to child transmission prevention program, that child can be born free of the virus.

That means the new generation coming up can actually be HIV-free. And that is what U.N. AIDS is -- is consistently talking about, that we actually can make that difference. And we want to see that difference being made by 2015.

ANDERSON: Diana says: "How do you write songs and what inspires you, Annie?"

LENNOX: You know, I would say that songwriting is something about the expression of the heart, the intellect and the soul. And you have to have an absolute fascination for music and music making, which I've -- I've always done all my life. And you kind of wonder, you know, there is no magic formula for that. But I think it starts with a curiosity -- a curiosity of intellect and heart. And that's -- that's the start off point.

ANDERSON: What's the -- what's your favorite song that you wrote?

LENNOX: Ooh, you've tried to pin me down here. That's really -- it took me one, because there actually have been quite a few.

ANDERSON: Go on. Go on. Give me one.

LENNOX: Well, of course, I think "Why?" is a pretty classic song. And what I love about that is that, you know, songs can be used in a different context and -- and really touch people. And just a couple of weeks ago, I actually performed that song live to people in an audience just -- I was just singing and playing piano and the whole room was crying.


LENNOX: And I thought wow, that's -- that's important, that connection, you know?


LENNOX: And so music is really powerful.

ANDERSON: Yes. Good stuff.

Alexis asks -- and this is an interesting one -- "Is there a question that you wish someone would ask you but nobody ever does?"


LENNOX: I can't think. People ask me so many questions.

You know, I suppose it would be like would you like one sugar or two?

Now, that's a question.


ANDERSON: Well done.

Karim said: "Do you recall your best moment on the stage? Where and when was it?"

LENNOX: Yes. Although there -- there have been quite a few, quite a few. But I think, actually, I have to be absolutely honest. One of the best moments for me, back in 1987, performing at Wembley Stadium to celebrate Nelson Mandela's birthday while he was still incarcerated...

ANDERSON: I remember that.

LENNOX: -- in Robben Island. And 50,000 people there -- the whole world watching, with all this lovely collaboration with other musicians. It was a moment. And I think it was a tipping point in terms of the awareness about the an -- anti-apartheid movement.


ANDERSON: Annie Lennox was in Washington when I was speaking to her earlier.

Well, tomorrow, our Connector of the Day is talking World Cup. Legendary football writer Harry Harris answers your questions on the upcoming tournament in South Africa. He's going to give us some of his own predictions. So send us your comments,

Tonight, we will be right back.