Annie Lennox looks back at drag Grammy moment
TORONTO - Annie Lennox remembers her signature Grammy moment like it was, well, 25 years ago.
Yes, it's been a quarter-century since Lennox got onstage at the 1984 Grammy Awards and performed "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" in drag. Though she says it feels like a "big blur" now, she fondly recalls a few details of the memorable night.
"I remember enjoying very much being in another persona," she said in a recent telephone interview from London. "That was interesting. That was like a piece of performance art. Apart from performing, I actually inhabited this male persona for a few hours."
In fact, Lennox -- who strutted across the stage in a dark suit, with faux mutton chops flanking her youthful face and her voice lowered to a different, huskier register - kept her plans a secret from everyone except co-conspirator and Eurythmics bandmate Dave Stewart.
That meant she got to hang around backstage with her fellow musicians not having a clue who she was.
"People were unaware that it was me," she said. "So it was almost like being a fly on the wall for awhile. That's always something I think people want to be, isn't it -- someone else?"
But there were also practical ramifications to her secrecy.
Grammy production staffers weren't in on the joke. They didn't know where Lennox was and they certainly didn't recognize this strange man with a bushy black pompadour skulking around backstage.
So when it was time for the Eurythmics to perform -- live, of course -- they were more than a little frantic.
"The person who really didn't know who I was was the stage manager, and he was freaking out, because he couldn't see me anywhere and I was meant to be in my position because we were waiting for the curtain to go up," Lennox recalled. "And he was freaking, and I was just standing there quietly (next to him).
"And then he realized who it was, and he just fell on his knees and rolled around. 'Oh my god,' he was screaming.
"The rest is all a big blur now, but I remember that moment, him going on his knees."
Though Lennox said she initially suggested the idea to Stewart because she thought it would be fun, she also wanted to wryly address the whispers about her so-called androgyny that had followed her throughout her young career.
"And there had been so much talk about my gender," said Lennox, whose solo retrospective "The Annie Lennox Collection" comes out Feb. 17. "Is she a man, is she a woman? And I said to Dave, let's just do it like this, it'll be such a laugh. I'll take an old rumour and I'll use it to show that everything is just performance.
"Everything is illusory anyway. People make such an issue about who you really are, but you change, all the time. Nothing is static. Nothing stands still."
Now 54, Lennox admits she doesn't follow the music industry as closely as she once did, even as she continues to write music.
So she won't necessarily be watching the 51st Grammy Awards this Sunday. But she thinks that Grammy performers should always realize they have an opportunity to create a little chaos of their own.
"If ever you get a chance to perform on live television, you have an opportunity to make something special because millions of people will be watching you," she said. "You can make a bit of a statement if you're so inclined."