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For her seventh solo album, Annie Lennox looks back reflectively and respectfully upon those who came before her. “Nostalgia,” now out on vinyl and coming to CD on October 21, is a gentle and soulful look back on legendary blues and jazz songs from two generations past.

Songs like Strange Fruit and God Bless the Child, both recorded decades ago by the legendary, if tragic Billie Holiday, or classics like Georgia On My Mind and I Cover The Waterfront invoke those bygone days of smoky nightclubs and sophisticated ladies. Lennox puts her personal stamp on each song, imbuing each number with a haunting, emotional intensity rarely heard in today's techno pop tunes.

As a rule, Dame Annie Lennox prefers not to use her prestigious title. Knighted by the Queen in 2010, the Scottish native became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire not for her music, but for her work in combating AIDS and poverty in Africa. She admitted, in a recent phone chat with SFGN, that she uses her title primarily in support of the social justice causes she believes in.

Lennox has lived her life immersed in music and humanitarian causes, which has included a lifelong commitment to LGBT equality. She has won four Grammy Awards, among many other prestigious recognitions for her incomparable music career. She was also named 2009 Woman of Peace, an honor bestowed upon her by 22 Nobel Peace Laureates.

Here, speaking to SFGN via phone from the UK, is Annie Lennox.

How did it feel to be Knighted by the Queen?

It was great getting that acknowledgement for getting people focused on HIV and AIDS. There are so many issues that need attention: people don't know that babies can be born with HIV, so I was pleased that this was the issue I was acknowledged for. I have the opportunity to address the issues that appeal to me. But there are so many extraordinary ordinary people not getting credit for what they do.

What motivates your decades long support of LGBT equality?

I don't like labels. I don't want to be labeled, defined and and reduced because of my orientation, and neither should anyone else. I never thought anyone should make a distinction, I would love my childhood no matter what their orientation. How cruel things have been historically. I think of Quentin Crisp, an exquisite maverick. He was so courageous and gentle, and dared to be himself. Imagine being afraid to go out because people might assault you for who you are.

(NOTE: Author/actor Quentin Crisp, 1908-1999, came out in 1931 London. As he recounted in The Naked Civil Servant, his 1966 memoir, he endured decades of beatings and false arrests for prostitution as a result, yet he stood his ground.)

Since you've supported LGBT equality from the beginning of your career, were you ever worried about backlash?

I'm not worried about my music career. People's perceptions can be twisted, what you say can be misrepresented. I try to have a balance, I don't want to be controversial just for the sake of being controversial. I'm an intelligent person and I want people to see that.

Let's talk about “Nostalgia,” which is a change of pace for you.

I wanted to cast a spell, to draw listeners into another era. I'm sharing my take on the songs. I'm accessing something in them, I'm trying to communicate this on a deep level. These songs were not part of the wallpaper of my life, I came to them pretty late, I wanted to explore them.

Many of these songs are very romantic.

The world we live in is a very harsh place. We're not gentle. You never hear a man singing to a woman as in songs like Memphis in June. It takes you back to those times, those sensibilities of the tenderness in our culture. Why do we have to be so hard?

How would you classify the album?

The origin of these songs is the blues. Blues come from something beautiful and painful, and it's the mixture of the two things. And that's an area I know very well. I thought, if I'm going to try this I'm going to get right to the nub of the song. You commune with the song and if the melody is speaking back to you, it guides you to where you need to go with it.

Look for Annie Lennox's Nostalgia at Amazon.