In Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances), the smart, funny, and inspiring memoir from Denise Donlon chronicling her impressive and storied career, has put her on the frontlines of the massive changes in the music industry and media. She chronicles her early days at MuchMusic and the music journalism show The NewMusic, where she was a host and producer, and quickly moved up the ranks to become director of music programming, then VP and general manager. Her mandate was relevance, during a time when music videos became a medium that would change pop music and popular culture forever. She became the first female president of Sony Music Canada, where she navigated the crisis in the music industry with the rise of Napster and the new digital revolution. She then joined CBC English Radio as General Manager and Executive Director when the corporation absorbed funding cutbacks, leading to mass reductions in people and programming and leaving a shadow over the future of Canada’s national public broadcaster.
Throughout her incredible journey, she shares colourful and entertaining stories of growing up tall, flat, and bullied in east Scarborough; interviewing musical icons such as Keith Richards, Run-DMC, Ice-T, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Annie Lennox, and Sting; working with talent agent Sam Feldman, media pioneer Moses Znaimer, executive vice-president of CBC Radio Richard Stursberg, and her co-host on the current affairs magazine show The Zoomer, Conrad Black. And finally, she details her life-changing experiences with War Child Canada and her work with other charitable organizations, including Live8 and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership.
Told with humour and honesty, Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances) is a candid memoir of one woman’s journey, navigating corporate culture with integrity, responsibility, and an irrepressible passion to be a force for good.
Annie Lennox: “On the 10th of January this year, the world was stunned and shaken by the news that David Bowie had suddenly passed away. I suspect that everyone is still trying to process this sadly unexpected event. Even if they didn’t know him personally, many people must feel as if things will never be quite the same again. He had that special kind of significance.
“For me, it’s almost impossible to mention Bowie’s name in the past tense. Everything he represented as an artist was, and always will be, vital and incredibly present. As a cutting-edge artistic genius, he continues to live on through his music. David Bowie is deeply embedded in the heart of British culture, as a fixture within our collective inner psyche, influencing every decade from the moment he first appeared on the airwaves with ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969 right up to the present day.
“Like the miraculous moon landing that inspired the song, he drew us away from our suburban lives, expanding our horizons, turning everything on its head into gloriously subversive technicolour. As an innovative writer, performer and rock star, there was no one and nothing else like him. He was truly unique: a quintessential visionary, pushing the limits of his shape-shifting persona. The ultimate iconoclast – gracious, dangerous and legendary. The legacy of his extraordinary sound and vision will be loved and revered for as long as the earth still spins.
“The Brits Icon Award is only presented to unparalleled artists whose writing, recording and performance set them apart as having made a lasting impact on the nation’s culture, recognising the very highest level of British music achievement. To accept the award, I’d now like to invite David’s dear friend Gary Oldman to the stage.”
Gary Oldman: “We are all coming to terms with the magnitude of David’s passing. The Jones family lost a husband and a father. Those closest to David lost a dear friend and the world lost a man, an artist of transcendent talent. As Annie so gracefully said, David’s contribution, his influence on popular music – on culture itself – has no equal. He was the very definition, the living embodiment of that singular word, ‘icon’. I am so deeply touched and honoured to be here tonight to accept this award for David and his family.
“In recent years David spoke sparingly about music and his process, but in one of these rare instances he graciously and eloquently expounded, ‘Music has given me over 40 years of extraordinary experiences. I can’t say that life’s pains or more tragic episodes have been diminished because of it, but it has allowed me so many moments of companionship when I have been lonely, and a sublime means of communication when I have wanted to touch people. It has been both my doorway of perception and the house that I live in.’
“Over his career David challenged and changed our understanding of the medium. Whether in music or in life he emphasised originality, experimentation, exploration, and in his very unique way he also reminded us to never take ourselves too seriously.
“David was funny. He was funny, hilariously so, and the laughs were many and massive and I shall miss them. A related story: a few years ago we were standing on a street corner and he was approached by this big fella – rocker type, long hair, leather-clad – and he offered up this piece of paper for David’s autograph. David signed the piece of paper and as the fella walked away he said, ‘Well he’s going to be disappointed’ – I said, ‘Why?’ – he said, ‘Cause I just signed it Gary Oldman.’
“His outlook was always positive and I never once heard him complain. I can share with you that David faced his illness with enormous courage and dignity and grace, and customary humour, even in dire circumstances. When he wrote to tell me the bad news that he had cancer, he added, ‘The good news is, I’ve got my cheekbones back’.
“He was the sweetest soul ever, with the best cheekbones, until it was done. David, you were mortal, but your potential was superhuman and your remarkable music is living on. We love you and we thank you.”
Your Grammys performance broke the Internet but it was so simple—no fireworks, just you on the stage. Don’t you think that’s basically what a performer has always been doing? To me, it’s what I’ve done—I’ve used costumes, I’ve used lighting.
Why do you think the public reacted to it the way that they did?
I don’t know, I can’t tell you that. It’s like the Roman Empire: you get the thumbs up and everybody loves you. Everybody is a critic nowadays and if they feel like they don’t like you, they can steam into you with such abuse. So it’s a schizophrenic experience. I was surprised. I didn’t know until I went out to dinner that night that people were talking about it. So many people were saying, “You were exploding on Twitter.” And I was like, “Really?” I just did what I did and I never know how people are going to take it. Sometimes people love you, sometimes they hate you.
The online peanut gallery, even when it’s being praiseful, makes you nervous.
We really are in a divisive place with the Internet. I’m reticent to allow it to affect me because you start to feel like that’s the last thing you’ve done and then everything else is pitted against that last one. Thank you very much to everyone who seemed to appreciate it, I’m delighted, but I can’t live in that schizoid place where I get approval and disapproval.
Do you think it’s harder to be an artist now than when you first started out?
[With] female artists, it’s harder. You see you have to play the game; that’s what the system wants. So you have to make yourself available 24/7. And if someone takes your picture at a time when you really don’t want that picture taken, and you didn’t have any say as to whether you wanted that image taken of you, and that person just going to take it and they’re going to sell it and make a ton of money out of it, I find that really intrusive and really invasive. Some people welcome that, they want that — they want to live that lifestyle 24/7. I don’t understand that, I really don’t.
So for the young artist coming up, if they think that they just want to be famous, they have to live with that. They have to live with the responsibility of what that means. And it’s quite cannibalistic; it eats you up. You have no privacy. You are living in this goldfish bowl. If that’s what you want, fine, but once the genie’s out of the bottle, there’s no turning back. And I find that quite disturbing as a human phenomena… It’s here today, gone tomorrow. You can be famous like that and everybody in the world knows you for two seconds, and what happens after that? You crash, I can guarantee. You crash and burn, and where’s the sustainability in it? Where’s your real value as a human being?
So what advice do you have for new artists, particularly female artists, trying to establish a lasting and real career now?
It’s very challenging nowadays; the pool of music is over-subscribed and just so generic. You have so many talent shows with beautiful kids coming and singing, and they have this notion of fame and celebrity, and what that is — and really, it’s illusory. It’s completely illusory, and that concerns me, because it’s like this instantaneous notion.
The truth of it all is that, first of all, it’s exceedingly hard work. And maybe you want to do a lot of hard work, but it also can be a bit exploitative. And that’s the thing: You really got to have your wits about you. You have to be grounded, because if you’re not careful, somebody else is going to come and they’re going take your soul away. And you will be left with the shadow of the person that you really are. It’s dangerous.
The Eurythmics will reunite to honor the Beatles for a televised special commemorating the Fab Four’s legendary U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Recording Academy announced today.
The first performances for THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED AMERICA: A GRAMMY(R) SALUTE TO THE BEATLES were announced today, including four-time GRAMMY Award winner Annie Lennox and GRAMMY Award winner Dave Stewart, who will reunite as the Eurythmics for one night only; 14-time GRAMMY Award winner Alicia Keys and nine-time GRAMMY Award winner John Legend together in a special performance; and three-time GRAMMY Award-winning group Maroon 5; and seven-time GRAMMY Award winner John Mayer with four-time GRAMMY Award winner Keith Urban. The primetime entertainment special, presented by The Recording Academy(R), AEG Ehrlich Ventures and CBS, will celebrate the remarkable legacy of the seven-time GRAMMY Award-winning Beatles and their groundbreaking first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The show will tape on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, the day after THE 56TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS(R), and will be broadcast exactly 50 years to the day, date and time of the original event, Sunday, Feb. 9 (8:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Annie Lennox has spoken out against the sexual imagery of music videos, saying many are now “pornographic”. Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the former Eurythmics singer said: “I’m all for freedom of expression, but this is clearly one step beyond, and it’s clearly into the realm of porn.”
Lennox then took to Facebook, when she posted a critique of the current style of pop videos.
I have to say that I’m disturbed and dismayed by the recent spate of overtly sexualised performances and videos. You know the ones I’m talking about. It seems obvious that certain record companies are peddling highly styled pornography with musical accompaniment. As if the tidal wave of sexualised imagery wasn’t already bombarding impressionable young girls enough..I believe in freedom of speech and expression, but the market forces don’t give a toss about the notion of boundaries. As long as there’s booty to make money out of, it will be bought and sold. It’s depressing to see how these performers are so eager to push this new level of low.Their assumption seems to be that misogyny- utilised and displayed through oneself is totally fine, as long as you are the one creating it. As if it’s all justified by how many millions of dollars and U tube hits you get from behaving like pimp and prostitute at the same time. It’s a glorified and monetized form of self harm.
She followed that with a clarification: “There is absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ about our sexuality or sensuality per se. But if a performing artist has an audience of impressionable young fans and they want to present a soft porn video or highly sexualised live performance, then it needs to qualify as such and be X-rated, for adults only. I’m talking from the perspective of the parents of those young fans. The whole thing is about their children’s protection … Boundaries need to be put in place so that young kids aren’t barraged by market forces exploiting the “normalisation” of explicit sex in underage entertainment.”