It’s been a while since Annie Lennox wrote a song so when director Matthew Heineman approached her to do so for A Private War, she said yes. A Private War takes us to the front line of journalism as Marie Colvin reports from the streets of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. In the heat of battle in Syria in 2012, Colvin was able to report live to Anderson Cooper on CNN to show the immediate devastation of war. Hours later, Colvin was killed.
Lennox’s song Requiem For A Private War is a personal song to her in so many ways because the singer, songwriter and activist had met Colvin through her charity, The Circle.
We talk about the song, and we talk about how Lennox is taking the initiative to introduce the term “Global Feminism.” Lennox says, “Global Feminism is an inclusive umbrella term that represents everyone — and men are to be connected to this. I very much believe that men must be feminists and they must be educated to endorsing the values of feminism.”
She talks about how the lyrics of her song transcend the film and extend to the movement of #metoo. “In a way, the women’s movement needs to say, Bring it on, nothing will stop us. Bring it on.”
I saw the film last week. I remember reading pieces by Marie Colvin in the Sunday Times, when I was growing up. Your charity The Circle supports women on the front line of journalism. What was your introduction to Marie?
It came via The Circle. One of Marie’s friends, Jane Wellesley was a circle member. She wanted to bring Marie along whenever she was in the UK and Marie actually came to one of our events. She may have come to two. I remember meeting her at a circle event and she loved it. She was very excited that something like The Circle was happening and that was fantastic.
The Circle depends very much on people identifying with people identifying with what we’re trying to achieve and what we’re trying to contribute to. She got it. She was really excited about it and it was really encouraging for all of us.
Subsequently, after she was killed, Jane and her friends thought that they’d like to create a circle in her honor and her legacy which is the Marie Colvin Journalist Network. That is a very special thing. It works in the Middle East and North African Countries with female journalists to support and mentor them and to offer whatever we can. It’s available scholarships, digital security advice, emergency aid, psychological health and trauma, and job opportunities. I think it’s a very fitting tribute to Marie.
How did you get involved with writing the song for the movie?
Matthew Heineman reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a song and that was something I hadn’t done in years. I wasn’t really interested in writing a song. I actually thought my songwriting days were done. When I heard that, I didn’t know a film was being made about her. I had the email, I saw they were making the film, and something about that resonated in me. I thought that if anybody is going to write a song about her, I wanted to give it a shot. I contacted them and said that I’d like to try, but I didn’t guarantee them that I could.
I didn’t see the film but I started. I became intrigued by the notion of what a song would be like. I started immediately and within a day I had written the song. Matthew came to see me with Scott Salinas who had written this incredible score. I was here in LA and I sang it to them. I played it to them on the keyboard and they were speechless. I thought this was the right song, and I got to record it.
The weird thing was that I hadn’t seen the film. Something in me got it. I think I had an opportunity in this song to say that war is an aberration and war is an unspeakable disgrace. When we’ve reached the point where we are blowing people, humans, women, and children at random. when humans are bombing and killing each other and there is blood everywhere, it’s something I have never experienced, but the horror that I’ve seen is unspeakable. It should never exist. There should be a universal law against war. Wouldn’t that be something?
It’s because men rule the world. You know you watch the film and you watch the horrors of war. The mothers carrying their sons. The fathers crying for their children.
It’s unthinkable. You see, that’s the thing, people can say, let’s give the go-ahead to war. Men and women do it. I’m not going to exclude women, mainly men, but some women too – give the green light and go to war and this is what they unleash. Do they really think that this is the solution of any kind? There is no solution in war. War either starts or stops. The solutions are only at the discussion table, in the meantime, butchery, devastation. Millions of refugees having to flee their homes. There are children. I have daughters. I can not imagine my children being brought up, and as a mother, it’s so obscene. To think that this obscenity of war is regarded as normal. There is nothing normal in it.
Marie Colvin wanted to take us to the front line so we knew what was going on. If you live here and watch the news, we don’t always hear that story unless you seek it. Why is it so important to hear her story and that of others?
As humans, we must have ethics or it’s just abuse and neglect. It’s the same old. If you look at my Instagram page, I’m initiating the introduction of the term “Global Feminism.” I’m trying to initiate that into the zeitgeist so people start using the terminology.
We need to use terminology, otherwise, we have no reference points. Feminism is a broad church and we have all manners of different organizations. Global Feminism is an inclusive umbrella term that represents everyone and men are to be connected to this. I very much believe that men must be feminists and they must be educated to endorsing the values of feminism.
In the world today, 757 million adults can not read or write. Two out of three of those are women. One in three women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifestyle, globally. 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. That’s just three facts, I didn’t pluck them out of the air, they are hard facts.
When you say, “I don’t believe in feminism,” wake up! This is what is happening in the world. I’ve only given three facts, but don’t we want to see a change in that? I want to see a change. But, when you don’t have a term to address it, if we don’t support grassroots organizations where these things are taking place, there will never be a change.
Well, even here, there are still states where domestic violence laws differ.
There’s a great line in the song where you sing, “Bring it on/Bring it on” and it’s so powerful that goes beyond the film. Let’s talk about the lyrics.
Lyrics are a metaphor. I watched the final cut of the film for the first time the other night. One of the last few words Marie says is “why?” I get goosebumps as I say this, but one of the first lines I wrote was “Why do these cold stars burn bright?”
It’s as if I’m taking consciousness out of the world and looking at it from outer space, looking down as if it’s another intelligence watching at what is going on. I’m looking around the cosmos saying, “My God, these cold stars are burning, there’s this planet that spins 24/7 with all these terrible deeds going on. There’s so much beauty in the world, but there’s so much devastation.” It’s a metaphor for the luminous explosions of bombs lighting up in the night sky that Marie would have witnessed.
It’s funny that you brought my attention to “Bring it on” because I can imagine Marie saying, “Fuck it. Come on. I’m courageous. It doesn’t matter. I’m going forward.”
In a way the women’s movement needs to say, Bring it on, nothing will stop us. Bring it on.
Sing is another song with great women and it’s another great song for Global Feminism. You have the line “Sing my sisters”
“Let your voice be heard.” What won’t kill you, won’t make you strong. It’s a collective voice in my head.
But there are the global facts. I now understand that I am a global feminist. That is who I am. It doesn’t matter what color my skin is. It doesn’t matter where I come from. I am a global feminist. I stand for every woman in every circumstance. I want men to come on board. I want young boys to be brought up respecting the women around them. I want them to be raised knowing and learning that you can never raise your hand to a woman. That you can never kill her spirit by abusive behavior. It’s completely unacceptable. That rape is a weapon of war, we have to know that.
There are women in Congo who have suffered. Think of City of Joy. This woman Eve Ensler is an exceptional global feminist. She has been shining a light on the darkness for years working with women who have come back from the most heinous abuse. This is what feminism must address. As well as what is going on in western countries. I am so grateful to the response of women here and #metoo and all the movements that have subsequently risen up and given voice to say “no”. It causes dialogue. It causes abusers to rethink again. It causes them to think before they do act up.
Yes, more and more women are speaking up because of it, it’s given them the courage to say, “no” or to be brave and share their stories without fear of shame.
More and more.
I do have a film for you to see, Capernaum. It’s a tough watch, but you see how the children are sold to be brides, sexually abused. It’s based on true stories of these children.
It’s true. I bore witness to this. I bore witness to child-headed households. Children with no mother or father to take care of them. I was there. Once you’ve seen one child-headed household. Once you’ve met a child living on the street. Once you’ve sat in a rape crisis center and listened to the story of a girl whose grandfather, uncle or neighbor raped her. Once you know these things go on, you can not unring that bell. You know this is happening. You know that you need to do something about it.
OK, so now that you’ve written Requiem For A Private War, do you have the bug to write again?
[laughs] I live my life in such a unique way, if something comes to me and I think “Wow, I really need to do that.” It was a no-brainer. I had to do it. I needed to do it. I couldn’t say no to trying to write a song. This ticked all the boxes for me. A song came from it and it serves Marie, her legacy. It reconnects with the work she was doing. It prevents issues from going cold. That’s the beauty of the film. Once again the dialogue about war will come up. Do we have the solutions? No, we don’t. But, if we stop talking about it. That was the thing, if the witnessing of the horror ceases to be, we don’t have the dialogue about these things. It humanizes to know what is happening in our world so we can say: No, I take a stand against war. I take a stand against abuse. I take a stand against violation. I take a stand. I am a global feminist. This is who I am and this is what I believe.