Claudia Lennear is arguably one of the greatest back-up singers in modern popular music, appearing on albums with many rock and roll legends and receiving numerous credits to her name over her lengthy career. Originally from Rhode Island and raised in a Catholic family, Claudia moved to Pomona, California in her senior year of high school. It was about this time that time music began to have a greater presence in her life. After local gigging around Los Angeles with Doo-wop group, The Superbs, Claudia passed an audition with Ike & Tina Turner, becoming an Ikette in their group.
Since the late sixties, the strength and fragility of Ms. Lennear’s voice has been featured on albums from the likes of Stephen Stills, Humble Pie, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, and Ry Cooder. Claudia took part in George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and was the inspiration for the Rolling Stones song, “Brown Sugar” from the album Sticky Fingers, as well as David Bowie’s 1973 album cut “Lady Grinning Soul” from Aladdin Sane. In 1973, Claudia recorded an album under her own name entitled Phew for Warner Bros. Records, which includes her penned song “Sister Angela” as a paean to Angela Davis; Ms. Davis continues to be an influential figure and a political heroine for Claudia. Having worked with rock legends over the years and through her own music, Claudia’s voice is featured on the radio or streaming online nearly every day, every hour, every minute, on every continent, even right now!
Ms. Lennear has also been featured in several major films. She was a featured singer in Joe Cocker’s 1970 documentary, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, appeared in the 1971 film, Vanishing Point with Bonnie Bramlett and Rita Coolidge, provided the distorted voice for Linda Blair in the Academy Award-nominated film, The Exorcist, provided ambient sound in the Academy Award-winning film, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and sang the title song “Take Me Higher” in the Academy Award-winning film Klute. In 1974, Claudia co-stared alongside Clint Eastwood playing a secretary in the movie, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Claudia also appeared in the 1974 issue of Playboy magazine in a pictorial titled “Brown Sugar”. More recently, Claudia was featured in 2013’s Academy Award-winning documentary film 20 Feet From Stardom.
By the early 1980’s, Claudia stepped away from the music industry to embark on a career as an educator. Early in her life, Claudia’s career goal was to become an interpreter at the United Nations, and developed a keen interest in languages in parallel to her passion for music. Claudia currently teaches Spanish, French, and English at Mt. San Antonio College where she is an engaging and attentive professor to her students.
Today, Claudia still pursues music and is active on many fronts. In April 2019, Claudia was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame. She has recently performed with Jackson Browne at the Grammy Museum and sings with The Ash Grove Players, an Americana Roots music band. Claudia is currently working on an album with blues legend, Taj Mahal, with a release date slated for early 2020.
Photography by Norman Seeff, © 1972. All rights reserved.