Laine, Cleo (originally, Campbell, Clementina Dinah)

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Laine, Cleo (originally, Campbell, Clementina Dinah)

Laine, Cleo (originally, Campbell, Clementina Dinah), jazz vocalist; b. Southall, Middlesex, England, Oct. 28, 1927. Her father was a Jamaican street entertainer; despite the family’s poverty, her mother succeeded in finding the means to pay for her singing, dancing, and piano lessons. After performing locally, Cleo quit school at age 14 to help support her family. She sang with local bands, mainly around West London, before joining John Dankworth’s Seven in the spring of 1951. From 1947 to 1957 she was married to George Langridge and initially performed as Clementina Landridge. In 1951 she began singing with John Dankworth’s jazz group, making her mark under the name Cleo Laine; she and Dankworth married on March 18, 1958. She acted in Flesh to the Tiger (1958), Valmouth (1959), Here is the News (1960), among other films, and made her cabaret debut in June 1961. Laine has been on the British pop charts twice: “Let’s Slip Away” peaked at #42 in December 1960 and “You’ll Answer to Me,” a cover version of Patti Page’s minor U.S. hit, realized greater success, reaching the #5 position in the U.K. in 1961. She became popular as a singer in cabarets, concerts, and recordings, and on television; she also appeared in stage and film roles as both a singer and an actress. After starring in a British revival of Showboat, in 1971 and 1973, she resumed working regularly with Dankworth and soon developed a formidable international reputation, fortified by regular tours of the U.S., Europe, and Australia. She made her U.S. debut at N.Y.’s Alice Tully Hall in 1972, followed by a sensational appearance at Carnegie Hall in April 1973. Thereafter she toured throughout the U.S., appearing with her husband and his group and also with the major symphony orchs. She did concerts and television work in L.A. in January 1975, including her own TV show with Dankworth, and a New Zealand and Australia tour later that year. She has made numerous TV appearances in Britain, the U.S., Australia, and other countries. In 1978, the Best of Friends album, a Laine collaboration with classical guitarist John Williams, reached No. 18 and logged 22 listed weeks. Flutist James Galway was her partner on the 1980 recording “Sometimes When We Touch,” which climbed to #15 and remained on the chart for 14 weeks. As a solo artist Laine reached #68 in December 1978 with an album entitled Cleo. Her album The 10th Anniversary Concert (marking her 10th annual concert a N.Y.’s Carnegie Hall) won a Grammy in 1983. She continued to do occasional work as an actress. In 1985 she appeared on Broadway in Rupert Holmes’s musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She gave acclaimed performances in Hedda Gabler (1980) and Into the Woods (1989), among other films. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1979, and in 1997 she was made a Dame of the British Empire. She was also given an honorary doctoral degree by the Berklee ColL of Music. A 70th birthday concert was held at Town Hall in N.Y. as part of the JVC festival on Oct. 26, 1997.


She’s the Tops (1957); Lover and His Lass (1962); Shakespeare and All That Jazz (1964); If We Lived on Top of a Mountain (1968); Feel the Warm Columbia (1972); C. L. Live! at Carnegie Hall (1973); Beautiful Thing (1974); Day by Day (1974); I Am a Song (1974); Best Friends (1976); Born on a Friday (1976); Return to Carnegie (1976); Gonna Get Through (1978); Wordsongs (1978); Sometimes When We Touch (1980); Smilin’ Through (1982); Cleo at Carnegie: the 10th Anniversary (1983); Let the Music Take You (1983); G L. Sings Sondheim (1987); That Old Feeling (1987); Cleo’s Choice (1988); Woman to Woman (1989); Jazz (1991); One More Day (1991); Blue & Sentimental (1992); Solitude (1994).


Cleo: the Autobiography of C. L (N.Y., 1997).


Graham Collier, Cleo and John: A Biography of the Dankworths (London, 1976).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Music Master Jass and Blues Catalogue/Lewis Porter

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Laine, Cleo (originally, Campbell, Clementina Dinah)

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