Saturday, December 25, 2010

"A Thousand Beautiful Things" by Annie Lennox

The problem with publishing a hat trick of Annie Lennox videos is not struggling to find that third video (as per usual) but represents nothing less than the epic battle between head and heart in trying to choose which three of literally dozens of incredible performances to include.

I mean, if I choose A Thousand Beautiful Things does that mean I can't show Walking on Broken Glass? Or No More I Love You's? What about Dark Road? Not even Waiting In Vain?

Talk about your Sophie's choice*...

[* '...a forced decision in which any and all options have equally negative outcomes' as per the 1979 William Styron novel and 1982 Alan J. Pakula film of the same name. ~ MSM]

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"Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye" by Annie Lennox

From 1990's AIDS charity album Red, Hot + Blue - which featured modern (if not always modernist) takes on the songs of Cole Porter - it's Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, performed by Annie Lennox, in a video directed by Ed Lachman; the following year, while great with child, she sang the song to great effect in Derek Jarman's film Edward II.

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"Why" by Annie Lennox

How fucking amazing is this woman?

Normally I would be entirely peeved at having to forego posting the official video for this song - which is a work of art in its own right - but with Annie Lennox, any version of any of her songs is guaranteed to thrill; recorded live at the 25th Anniversary Gala for Arista Records, here she covers herself with astonishing aplomb, performing the smash hit song Why, from her 1992 debut solo album Diva on a grand piano.

Because what Christmas would be complete without an angel...?
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Happy Birthday Annie Lennox

Born on this day in 1954 in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, Annie Lennox is a classically trained musician with an intuitive zeitgeist-ometer that's been working overtime since 1981, when Eurythmics' first album, In the Garden, was released...

PhotobucketWith more soul in her break than most singers have in their whole voice, Lennox's honeyed contralto slunk, shrieked, and otherwise basically blasted through seven albums, including some of the greatest pop music ever recorded:

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
(1983), Touch (1983), 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) (1984), Be Yourself Tonight (1985), Revenge (1986), Savage (1987), and We Too Are One (1989)

It was her 1992 debut solo album Diva, though, that made Lennox the durable icon she is today; 1995's Medusa deftly dodged the sophomore slump with a collection of material which aren't merely cover versions but instead re-imaginings, simultaneously demonstrating the sheer elasticity of pop music as well as her distinctive approach to it. In 1999 she reunited with Dave Stewart to record Peace; 2003 saw the release of Bare, another solo effort which is uber-acoustic, like a lullaby for our collective jangled nerves. 2007's epic Songs of Mass Destruction continued to demonstrate both the growth and maturity of Lennox's gift.

Already the owner of much coveted music industry hardware for both her group and solo projects, in 2004 Lennox was awarded 'the granddaddy of all chachkes' when she won an Oscar for her song Into the West, from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

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Pop History Moment: The Coronation of William the Conqueror

As much as the events surrounding the Battle of Hastings, it was the coronation of William the Conqueror (on this day in 1066) that was intended to secure his tenure as King of England through a not-so-subtle show of strength; seated on the throne which earlier that year had been occupied by England's last Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, the Duke of Normandy exacted an oath of fealty from a native aristocracy which would be largely wiped out, thanks entirely to his own efforts, over the next generation.

PhotobucketHaving defeated the Harold's army of Saxon volunteers in October, he waited for a formal invitation to become King, which anyway he believed had been promised to him by Edward the Confessor; instead, the Witenagemot, proclaimed a boy - Edgar Ætheling - the new King, albeit without the benefit of a coronation.

So William's forces marched on London, passing first through Dover (a major port) and Canterbury (even then a major religious centre); he met strong resistance at London Bridge and so turned back to approach the city from the northwest, crossing the Thames at Wallingford. Forcing the capitulation of Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, he arrived at Berkhamsted and personally received both the crown from the erstwhile boy-king and the fealty of the assembled Saxon nobility.

It is apt, then, that he was crowned by Aldred, Archbishop of York; it would take the new King six years to subdue his rebellious northern lands, in what used to be the Kingdom of Mercia. To this day it remains one of the great what-ifs of English history: what if disease or battle had carried him off sooner, an all-too-common occurrence in the lives of medieval warrior kings, and not allowed him a generation's time to impose his will upon his conquered realm?
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Remembering... Eartha Kitt


Eartha Kitt - that seemingly ageless paragon of feline-esque femininity whose fame was mainly built by playing Catwoman on the 1960s TV-campfest Batman - died on this day in 2008; she was 81.

Acclaimed for her sultry delivery of songs such as C'est si bon, I Want To Be Evil, Just An Old-Fashioned Girl, the Christmas classic Santa Baby, and the dance floor scorcher Where Is My Man, Kitt first appeared in the 1948 film Casbah as part of the Katherine Dunham Company; she got her first break, though, playing Helen of Troy in Orson Welles' Dr. Faustus. As excited as Hollywood was to see her, movie moguls have never been good at knowing what to do with someone unique, and so her movie career never really took off like it might have done if she'd been more generic.

Kitt was principally a cabaret singer, albeit one who combined immense stage presence with a knowing delivery of winking lyrics... In real life, however, she wasn't known for hiding behind euphemism; one of the first big stars to oppose the Vietnam War, following inflammatory comments she made at the Johnson White House - the rumour is she made the First Lady cry - Kitt's career was effectively side-lined to Europe for the better part of the next decade.

In later years, as nightclub stages became too small to contain her charisma, Kitt began appearing in Broadway musicals such as The Wild Party, Cinderella, and Nine; she also found use for her voice in such animated features as The Emperor's New Groove and Kronk's New Groove, as well as their TV adaptation The Emperor's New School. Her valiant struggle with colon cancer included working in the cabarets of New York City up until just a few months before her death; she was survived by her daughter Kitt Revson Shapiro - who was at her side when she died - as well as four grandchildren.
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