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Wendy and Lisa Teaming Up With Annie Lennox for Trio Project

Neither Annie Lennox nor Wendy and Lisa have been prolific record-makers in recent years. But that could change, since the three women have been writing together, as revealed by the latter duo during a personal appearance this weekend.

In a keynote Q&A held at USC Friday night as part of the 2024 Pop Conference, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were asked what they are working on now. Moderator Timothy Anne Burnside’s tone indicated she might have had a tip-off that promising things are in store.

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Indeed, the duo’s brief but intriguing response indicated that the public might be able to expect a collaboration that no one saw coming. Melvoin and Coleman said that they are working on writing new music with Lennox for a joint project. They even went so far as to call the unit they’ve formed with the ex-Eurythmics singer a “band.”

Although it seemed as though they might have been speaking figuratively in using that term, Melvoin had a quip that lent itself toward a literal interpretation.

“If you’ve got any good names for a band name for the three of us, that’d be great,” she told the audience.

Even if it turned out that this material was just going toward an Annie Lennox solo album, that would still be good for a news headline. Lennox’s last album of original material came out 17 years ago — 2007’s “Songs of Mass Destruction.” Even her last album of cover songs, “Nostalgia,” came out a decade ago.

A fresh Wendy and Lisa album would be news all by itself, too. Their last official release as a duo was 2008’s “White Flags of Winter Chimneys.” They have remained active in the scoring world, including co-composing the music for Season 2 of Hulu’s “Cruel Summer” last year.

That Lennox might have struck up a friendship with Wendy and Lisa, if not a group project, will come as no surprise to anyone who’s tracked their public appearances over the last year.

All three appeared at a couple of Brandi Carlile-hosted “Joni Jams” celebrating Joni Mitchell in 2023, first at the Gorge in Washington, then in October at the Hollywood Bowl. More recently, in February, the three appeared together performing “Nothing Compares 2 U” as part of an In Memoriam segment on the Grammys, in honor of Sinead O’Connor — though Wendy and Lisa’s time as members of Prince and the Revolution also obviously resonated in the performance of a Prince-penned song.

The lapses since the last albums by either of these parties has not done anything to diminish the mass public appreciation of, and hunger for repeat appearances from, Lennox and Wendy and Lisa. In particular, Lennox’s surprise appearances on stage were greeted as if she were the star of the show at the two Joni Jam concerts; similarly, she received a homecoming hero’s welcome when she sang for Mitchell at a Gershwin Prize taping early last year. (See Lennox’s 2023 interview with Variety about her lifelong appreciation of Joni Mitchell here.)

Friday night’s conversation with Wendy and Lisa was the second keynote of PopCon 2024, an annual presentation of talks by music academics and journalists, following an earlier conversation with George Clinton on Thursday night, also at USC.

Burnside, a curatorial specialist with the Smithsonian Museum, led Melvoin and Coleman through a full history of their work together, including growing up as childhood friends and their tenure with Prince during his most celebrated period in the 1980s.

Not surprisingly, the subject gravitated toward Mitchell’s influence. The story was told of how, after Prince had already brought Coleman into the band, at a time when he knew Melvoin only as the keyboard player’s girlfriend, he overheard her playing guitar down a hallway and, after he walked in and asked her to play more, Melvoin played the star a snippet of Mitchell’s “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter,” instigating a key chapter in their careers and in music history.

Burnside played the opening riffs of “Purple Rain” and asked Melvoin about coming up with the part. The guitarist spread the fingers of her hand wide as if they were a spider’s legs, to show the unusually wide circumference of their reach, and said she had learned to play Mitchell’s famously odd tunings without the capo that almost all players would have to use… an ability or technique that allowed her to find the “Purple Rain” chords that cover bands have struggled with for the last four decades.

More recent activity was covered, including Wendy and Lisa being part of the all-female band for Allison Russell’s Grammy-winning 2023 release “The Returner.” Melvoin described working on the Russell album as one of the best, most uplifting studio experiences they’d ever had in their lives — despite her original misgivings that an ensemble made up of nothing but female musicians might try to outdo one another in that environment. “She’s the real deal,” the guitarist said of Russell.

Asked about the secret to their longevity as professional partners, Melvoin invoked the phrase “in love,” saying that even though their time as as a couple personally came to an end many years ago, the two of them remained in most ways as close as ever.

Burnside reminded the audience that Wendy and Lisa are only award away — a Tony — from being EGOTs. Without offering any specific plans, the pair vowed that they intend to work on that.

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