Marlena Shaw, the singer of ‘California Soul,’ has passed away

The soul and jazz artist was also known for 'Woman of the Ghetto.' She was 81 years old.

It is with a very heavy heart for me and my family that I must announce that our beloved mother, your cherished icon and artist Marlena Shaw, passed away today at 12:03,” said daughter Marla Bradshaw in a video posted on Facebook on Friday. The cause of death has not been disclosed. “She was at peace. She went listening to some of her favorite songs,” Bradshaw added.

Shaw rose to prominence after signing with Chess Records in 1966. She released two albums under the label’s subsidiary Cadet Records: “Out of Different Bags” in 1967 and “The Spice of Life” in 1969, which included the popular tracks “California Soul” and “Woman of the Ghetto.” The former, written by Ashford & Simpson, was often sampled by other artists and featured in numerous television commercials.

In 1972, Shaw moved to Blue Note Records and released her third studio album, “Marlena,” in the same year. Other albums by the singer released under the Blue Note label include “From the Depths of My Soul” (1973), “Marlena Shaw Live at Montreux” (1974), “Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?” (1975), and “Just a Matter of Time” (1976).

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In 1977, Shaw released the LP “Sweet Beginnings” for Columbia Records, featuring the tracks “Yu Ma / Go Away Little Boy” and “Look at Me, Look at You.”

Born Marlina Burgess on September 22, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York, Shaw began her musical career in the 1960s, singing in jazz clubs, and continued to perform live in the 2000s. She released a total of 17 albums with eight different record labels.

Verve Records, which worked with Shaw in 1987, shared a statement on Facebook, writing: “We are very saddened by the passing of Marlena Shaw, a wonderful singer whose ‘California Soul’ is as popular today as it has ever been, and whose album ‘It Is Love: Recorded Live At Vine St.’ helped relaunch Verve in 1987.”

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