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Overview for Claudia Lennear
Claudia Lennear

Claudia Lennear


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Claudia Lennear was an American soul singer who worked with several notable musicians, including Ike and Tina Turner, Humble Pie, and Joe Cocker. Lennear grew up in Rhode Island, where her family stayed until her senior year in high school. Music surrounded her at an early age. Her mother taught her how to harmonize and often listened to the sounds of soul music the likes of Gladys Knight & the Pips and Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles. Just months before she finished up high school, her family moved to Pomona, California where she soon found herself immersed in the music industry. She bumped into Sherlie Matthews, a backup singer who worked with many of the biggest Motown artists of the time. Matthews pointed out that Lennear lived near two of her musical idols: Ike and Tina Turner. The fortuitous luck turned into a meeting with the Turners, who hired her on the spot after a stellar audition. Joining the Ike & Tina Revue led to a whirlwind period in Lennear's life that was packed with tours, non-stop rehearsals, and live performances in places like "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS 1948-1971). During her time with the Turners, Robertson was also introduced to other bands, including the Rolling Stones. It was often rumored that Robertson was the source of inspiration for that band's 1971 hit "Brown Sugar."

After splitting with Ike and Tina's act, Lennear joined Joe Cocker and Leon Russell on the road. Although the tour only lasted for seven weeks, Lennear's unique performance of the Beatles' "Let It Be" at the Fillmore East Auditorium in New York was captured in the acclaimed documentary "Mad Dogs and Englishman" (1970). In 1971, Robertson stood alongside George Harrison as a backup vocalist during the Concert for Bangladesh, the historic concert held at Madison Square Garden that also featured Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. Lennear eventually sought to have a solo career on her own. In 1973, she released her only studio album titled Phew!, which Rolling Stone magazine called a "tour de force from start to finish" in its review. However, it was a commercial disappointment. She continued to sing until the 1980s when she finally felt her music career had run its course and retired. She pursued her original dream of becoming a teacher and permanently left the recording studio for the classroom by the end of the decade. Veteran documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville released "20 Feet From Stardom" (2013), a film that took a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the backup singers of several of the biggest names in music. Alongside Merry Clayton and Darlene Love, Lennear was one of the film's primary subjects, finally telling her story several decades since she stepped away from the spotlight.

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