Nightline Playlist: Annie Lennox

Most young girls raised in 1950s Scotland and trained in classical music at London's Royal Academy don't become pop and soul icons — but Annie Lennox did.

For Lennox,who was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1954, her childhood musical experiences gave no inkling of the vanguard career to come.

"I've always loved music. It's always been something very personal to me," she told "Nightline." "When I was a little girl, probably about 7 years old, I joined the local choir. We were taught very traditional Scottish songs. They were very correct. My mother came to see me, and she said I was trembling so much that my knees were just knocking together."

"I remember the fear of it, it was absolutely terrifying. I was in a big hall on a high stage and there was an adjudicator sitting in front of the kids with a bell when they were ready for you to sing," Lennox said. "It was terribly formal. And I think I have traces of that fear in me whenever I go on stage, but fortunately, I've come to terms with it now."

By her late teens, Lennox had won a scholarship to study flute at the Royal Academy of Music in London. But she was unhappy and left before taking her finals.

After working as a waitress, barmaid and shop assistant, she joined forces with English musician Dave Stewart in 1981 to create the electronic pop group the Eurythmics.

Lennox and Stewart scored major hits like "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)" and "Here Comes the Rain Again," but Lennox left the Eurythmics in 1990 to embark on a successful solo career, winning the best female vocal performance Grammy in 1995 for her hit "No More I Love You's."

Although she cites an eclectic spectrum of artists as major influences, she says her best inspiration is music itself.

"I can't carry another person's song in my head when I'm writing. But what songwriting is about, as far as I'm concerned, is a place, a kind of emotional, spiritual opening, a receptivity to wonderment and intrigue," Lennox said.

"Essentially, I sit down to play piano, and the piano's a fantastic instrument because it has all kinds of different textures in it and it covers a very wide range. It's almost like an orchestra itself. There's all kinds of potential in the piano," she said. "So I think really what influences me the most when I'm songwriting is my thrill at music, per se. No one particular song comes to mind for me because if it does I might be tempted to copy it and I want to create my own music."

At 53, Lennox continues to produce her signature emotionally charged music, as evidenced in her latest release, "Songs of Mass Destruction." Much of it was influenced by her activism in African AIDS prevention, including Nelson Mandela's 46664 organization and the Treatment Action Campaign. Even in the face of devastation, she said, music survives.

"When I was last time in Cape Town I was in Khayelitsha, which is one of the biggest townships in South Africa, and people sing — they're HIV positive and they sing together. And activist songs that they sing with a message about the situation definitely help to keep their spirits up and to give them a sense of community and support … they pass their music on in a beautiful way because they still sing together, and I think that's something the Western world has forgotten how to do," Lennox said.

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