Afrodiziak’s Claudia Fontaine dies, aged 57

Claudia Fontaine, best known in the 1980s as a prolific backing singer and member of vocal trio Afrodiziak, has died at the age of 57. The cause of her death has not been reported.

Born in 1960, Fontaine began her career singing with reggae and lovers rock acts in the late 1970s, before releasing her first solo single Natural High in 1981. The following year she teamed up with Caron Wheeler to form Afrodiziak. Their first chart success came as featured vocalists on War, one of five tracks on The Jam’s farewell double single Beat Surrender; the duo also sang on Elvis Costello’s 1983 hit single Everyday I Write The Book and album Punch the Clock. With the addition of third member Naomi Thompson, Afrodiziak was much in demand in the mid-80s, backing Madness on their Keep Moving and Mad Not Mad albums, Heaven 17 on 1984’s How Men Are album and Howard Jones on his hits Like To Get To Know You Well, Things Can Only Get Better and Life In One Day. Their opening a cappella refrain from the Special AKA’s 1984 hit Nelson Mandela remains instantly recognisable.

Fontaine also continued to work outside of the group, in particular with Marilyn on his top ten hit Calling Your Name and début album Despite Straight Lines. Afrodiziak continued into the late ’80s, appearing on Julia Fordham’s eponymous début album in 1988, but came to an end the following year when Wheeler found fame as the featured vocalist on Soul II Soul’s hits Keep On Movin’ and Back To Life (However Do You Want Me). Following a similar path, Claudia was the credited vocalist on the Beatmasters’ 1989 hit Warm Love and carried on as a backing vocalist for a multitude of acts: Hothouse Flowers, Jimmy Somerville, Neneh Cherry, Brother Beyond, Dusty Springfield, Betty Boo and Holly Johnson all made use of her services over the next few years.

Also in demand as live performer, Fontaine backed Pink Floyd on their Division Bell tour in 1994 and appears on the band’s multi-platinum selling live album Pulse; she also performed at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee concert in 2002. Claudia continued to perform until recently, backing such names as Robbie Williams, Geri Halliwell and Will Young in the 2000s.

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