Claire with producer and friend, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven recording the 'Fearless' album, Sarm West Studio, Notting Hill, London in 2000
Below: Claire in the 'Special Star' music video, 1989
Ocean (Off Starehe w/ Jeff Maluleke)
Yellow Bird (From Africa Blue)
Africa Blue (From Africa Blue)
Fearless (From Fearless)
Claire (yellow dress) in the Brickhill-Burke production of 'Annie; in 1978.
While Claire is perhaps in one sense best known to music fans as the voice and face of Mango Groove, in parallel with her Mango Groove career she has pursued a variety of successful solo projects that have made her much loved in her own right, and that have reinforced her status as a South African entertainment icon.
Claire’s first solo album, released through Sting Music, and recorded at Real World Studios in Bath and Sarm West and Olympic studios in London, UK. The Fearless album was produced by UK uber-producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, with additional tracks being produced by globally acclaimed songwriter/producer Marius de Vries (Madonna, Bjork and the ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ soundtracks).
‘Fearless’ was self-consciously a creative departure for Claire from the Mango sound. The World Music influences are certainly present (some of Peter Gabriel’s musicians played on the tracks), but overall the tracks have a more haunting and minor key texture than the Mango Groove songs. The result is a stunningly evocative and introspective album.
Claire’s second solo album, released through EMI, and produced by her husband, John Leyden, represents a slight return to the Mango Groove big band sound. In Claire’s own words,
“ Africa Blue represents an entirely personal celebration of the enormous power and influence of the musical legacy of the African Diaspora. It barely scratches the surface, I know, but these are the songs, sounds and styles I grew up on and loved. I celebrate them as an English girl who came here as a child, fell in love with South Africa and has made Africa her heart and her home.’’
In addition to its glorious ‘Tropical Big Band’ treatment of African Standards, ‘Africa Blue’ in fact features Mango Groove as guest artists on two tracks.
Claire and Rugby
There are very few SA Rugby supporters out there who have not been utterly moved by Claire’s soaring renditions of the National Anthem at various rugby internationals over the last few years. Claire’s long association with South African rugby started in the late ‘90’s with her performing the national anthem at the big international rugby tests. This association culminated in Claire along with Jeff Maluleke recording and performing the official 2003 SA World Cup song ‘Together as One’ for the ‘True Colours’ worldwide commemorative album.
Claire and Conservation
Conservation has become an issue that is very close to Claire’s heart, and it has found its perfect expression in the 2006 release of the limited edition CD ‘Starehe: An African Day’. The album took 3 years to make, and has been made in partnership with Amarula Cream. It will serve as a fund raising and awareness vehicle for Rob Slotow's Elephant research Project as well as the Wilderness Foundation. The album has a strong ‘World’ feel, and again features the iconic Jeff Maluleke as a guest artist and writer. The CD is available only from www.africageographic.com.
In addition to the ‘Starehe’ project, Claire has performed at fundraisers for the Wilderness Foundation, and was a special guest at the World Wilderness Conference in South Africa in 2003. She was also part of the global broadcast of Shamwari’s release of lions into the Eastern Cape (the first time in 150 years), and at this event was given the huge honour of being made the first SA patron of the world wide Born Free Foundation.
Claire's early years:
Claire Johnston was born in Hertfordshire in England. She always loved singing and had her first solo performance at the age of 3 at the nursery school concert shortly after arriving in South Africa!
At age 10, she saw an ad in the paper for little girls to audition for the Brickhill-Burke production of the smash-hit musical 'Annie'. Claire got the part of Tessie the Cry-baby and had a wonderful time performing in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
At 15, Claire became part of a teenage band which is where she met friend and future Mango Groove keyboard whizz, Alan Lazar. All the band ever did was rehearse!
Claire was in her matric year at Greenside High School and having singing lessons with the late, great Eve Boswell when Eve was called by Mango Groove looking for her 'best' female singer...
...and so began Claire and Mango Groove's journey!
10 Fascinating Facts about Claire
Claire Johnston Discography
Claire and Warrior Abe in the tunnel at Twickenham prior to a game between England and South Africa in 2002
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