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Fri, 10.28.1927

Cleo Laine, British Singer, born

Cleo Laine

*Cleo Laine was born on this date in 1927. She is a Black British jazz and pop singer and an actress.

Laine was born Clementine Laine in Southall, London, to Alexander Sylvan Campbell, a black Jamaican building laborer, and Minnie Bullock, a white English farmer's daughter from Swindon, Wiltshire. She attended the Board School there on Featherstone Road, sent by her mother for singing and dancing lessons at an early age. Laine went on to attend Mellow Lane Senior School in Hayes before working as an apprentice hairdresser, a hat-trimmer, a librarian, and a pawnbroker's shop.

In 1946, under the name Clementina Dinah Campbell, Laine married George Langridge, a roof tiler, with whom she had a son, Stuart. The couple divorced in 1957. It was not until 1953, when she was 26 and applying for a passport for a forthcoming tour of Germany, that Laine found out her real birth name, owing to her parents not being married then and her mother registering her under her name.

Laine did not take up singing professionally until her mid-twenties. Her early influences as a singer were Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Judy Garland, and Lena Horne. At 24, she auditioned successfully for John Dankworth's small group, the Dankworth Seven, and later his orchestra, with which she performed until 1958. Dankworth and Laine married that year in secret. The couple had two children, who were both successful musicians. She played the lead in a new play at London's Royal Court Theatre, home of the new wave of playwrights of the 1950s, such as John Osborne and Harold Pinter.

This led to other stage performances, such as the musical Falmouth in 1959, the play A Time to Laugh in 1962, Boots with Strawberry Jam in 1968, and eventually to her role as Julie La Verne in Show Boat in 1971. During this period, she had two major recording successes. "You'll Answer to Me" reached the British Top 10 while Laine was "prima donna" in the 1961 Edinburgh Festival production of the opera/ballet The Seven Deadly Sins. 1964 her Shakespeare and All That Jazz album with Dankworth was well received. Dankworth and Laine founded the Stables Theatre in 1970. 

It eventually hosted over 350 concerts per year. In 1972, Laine went international with a successful first tour of Australia, where she released six top-100 albums throughout the 1970s. After several nominations, this led to her first Grammy award in recognition of the live recording of her 1983 Carnegie concert. She has continued to tour periodically, including in Australia in 2005. Her husband died in February 2010, hours before a planned concert. Laine continued to perform and give interviews in the months following his death.

In March 2010, Laine and Dankworth's final musical collaboration was released on CD and for download – Jazz Matters. She appeared as a headline act at the Music in the Garden festival at Wavendon in June and July 2010. She is well-known for her interpretative style, almost-four-octave range, and vocal adaptability. As well as hitting deep, soulful notes, Laine's scatting and top notes have become her signature.

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