Claire Johnston

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Claire Johnston (b. 16 December 1967) is the lead singer of Mango Groove. Although born in the south of England, she has lived in South Africa for most of her life. At the age of ten, she debuted as an actor, dancer, and singer in a Johannesburg production of the musical Annie. At age 17, during her final year of high school, she joined the crossover band Mango Groove, and has come to be recognized as a symbol of the Rainbow Nation. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is married to Mango Groove founder John Leyden. Despite a busy concert schedule, she completed a degree in English, Philosophy, and Politics at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1988. After Mango Groove released their fourth studio album in 1995, they did not produce another until 2009's Bang the Drum. The band didn't stop performing together, but they used the recording hiatus to refresh themselves with separate projects. It was during this period that Johnston recorded her first solo album, Fearless (Sting Music, 2001). All recording was done at Real World Studios in Bath, and at Sarm West Studios and Olympic Studios in London. The tracks on Fearless were produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and Marius de Vries, respectively. Sometime in or around 2003, Johnston started recording a benefit album with Jeff Maluleke. The album took three years to complete, and was released in 2006 under the title Starehe: An African Day. While work on Starehe was still progressing, Johnston recorded a second solo album, Africa Blue (EMI, 2004). In 2005, she opened for Belinda Carlisle in a double tour of South Africa. On the tour, she sang Mango Groove hits as well as cover songs from Africa Blue. 2006 saw not only the release of Starehe, but EMI's reissue of Fearless and Africa Blue as a double album called The One and Only. Johnston was involved in South Africa's 2012 Olympics bid and the 1999 All Africa Games Celebrations. She sang the national anthem at the 1998, 2000, and 2001 Rugby League Tri-Nations tournaments. She has travelled extensively with Mango Groove, performing to sell-out shows in London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Sydney. She regularly performs "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" at Springbok rugby union internationals. Among her musical influences she lists Ella Fitzgerald and Debbie Harry, as well as Louis Armstrong and the crooners of the mid-19th century.