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  • Cleo Laine and Jacqui Dankworth (2010)

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    (Photo by Pat Johnson)

    Born just outside London, England, in the late 1920s, Cleo Laine, in the words to "Sweet Georgia Brown" knocks them dead when she comes to town, and has been doing so for over half a century.

    Cleo began her career as a singer and actress in the 1950s, and in the 1971 London production of "Show Boat" at the Adelphi Theatre was a show-stopping Julie, one of the first genuinely mixed-race actresses to appear in a role the essence of which was her being, in fact, of mixed race.

    Cleo's 50-year marriage to band-leader, composer, arranger and saxophonist John Dankworth produced not only many magical musical moments, but also two well-adjusted children, Alec and Jacqui, both of whom are professional musicians, Alec a bassist and Jacqui, like her mother, a singer.

    It seems that Cleo's own voice has always been fluid and flexible with a range of several octaves, but as Cleo tells it (either the way it really was or else with modesty) she'd originally had difficulty in finding work as a singer (and auditioned for the John Dankworth Seven in high summer while wearing a borrowed fur coat because she "was a bit of a scruff"), and had "about a one-octave range … down in my boots". Be that as it may, Cleo's voice at 82 is still the envy of many half her age. She's the only female performer to have received Grammy nominations in all of the categories jazz, popular and classical.

    Ever the complete package, Cleo has never stopped acting: in 1985 she was a Tony-nominated Princess Puffer in the Broadway hit musical "The Mystery of Edwin Drood", and four years later was acclaimed for her portrayal of the Witch in Steven Sondheim's "Into the Woods" (a show in the first London production of which, by coincidence, daughter Jacqui appeared).

    In 1979, Cleo became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music, an honor, and 18 years later received a promotion, as it were, by two levels to become a Dame of the Order of the British Empire (DBE—the female counterpart of a knight).
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 John Dankworth Jazz Matters Prologue and Fugue Qnote
    # 2 Jacqui Dankworth Back to You Beppo Audacious
    # 3 Charlie Wood Flutter and Wow What You Will Archer Records
    # 4 Shirley Horn Here's to Life Come a Little Closer/Wild Is the Wind Verve
    # 5 Lizz Wright Salt Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly Verve
    # 6 Jacqui Dankworth It Happens Quietly The Man not yet commercially available
    # 7 Cleo Laine and Jacqui Dankworth I Hear Music Over Hill, Over Dale Salvo
    Book Cleo: Charles Dickens, Complete Works
    Jacqui: A collection of poetry by Rumi
    Luxury Item Cleo: A strong tent to keep things away
    Jacqui: A cement mixer to build a swimming pool (Jacqui is afraid of sharks)
    Castaways by date
    Chris Amberger
    23 Jun
    Gerald Beckett
    01 Sep
    Buzz Brooks
    28 Apr
    Jarrett Cherner
    16 Jun
    Kev Choice
    30 Jun
    Anat Cohen
    28 Jul
    Natalie Cressman
    10 Feb
    Matt Eakle
    15 Dec
    Hershey Felder
    07 Apr
    Mitchell Feldman
    18 Aug
    Mike Galisatus
    03 Nov
    Aaron Germain
    06 Jan
    Robin Gregory
    17 Feb
    Tamir Hendelman
    13 Oct
    Kasey Knudsen
    17 Mar
    Matthew Montfort
    26 May
    Dan Montgomery
    06 Oct
    Andrea Motis
    21 Jul
    Ray Obiedo
    10 Mar
    Jayn Pettingill
    17 Nov
    John Pizzarelli
    25 Aug
    Sandi Poindexter
    24 Mar
    Don Randi
    20 Oct
    David Rogers
    24 Feb
    Eric Whittington
    29 Sep
    George Winston
    04 Aug
    Lizz Wright
    09 Jun
    Jason Yeager
    02 Jun