Cleo Laine Biography

Clementina Dinah Campbell, 28 October 1927, Southall, Middlesex, England. Laine’s earliest performance was as an extra in the film, The Thief Of Baghdad (1940). Her singing career started with Johnny Dankworth’s big band in the early 50s, where she worked with some of the best modern jazz musicians available. She married Dankworth in 1958 and since then they have become one of the UK’s best-known partnerships, although they have both developed additional separate careers.

Throughout the 60s, Laine began extending her repertoire adding to the usual items like ‘Ridin’ High’, ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe’, arrangements of lyrics by literary figures like Eliot, Hardy, Auden and Shakespeare (Word Songs). Her varied repertoire also includes Kurt Weill and Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’. She possesses a quite unique voice that spans a number of octaves from a smoky, husky deep whisper to a shrill but incredibly delicate high register. Her scat singing matches the all time greats including Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. In 1976, she recorded ‘Porgy And Bess’ with Ray Charles in a non-classical version, which is in the same vein as the earlier Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong interpretation. She has recorded, with great success, duets with flautist James Galway and guitarist John Williams.

Laine is an accomplished actress having appeared in a number of films and stage productions. In addition to her incredible vocal range and technique she has done much, through her numerous television appearances, to broaden the public’s acceptance of different styles of music in a jazz setting, and in doing so she has broken many barriers. In December 1997, she was made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours List.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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