Throwback: Marlena Shaw-California Soul


Marlena Shaw was a youngster of 10 when her jazz trumpeter uncle Jimmy Burgess brought her onstage at the Apollo. The New Rochelle, New York native started singing jazz professionally in the ’60s at clubs around the state. Her 1966 recording of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” for Chess records lead to the completion of her debut album Out Of Different Bags for their Cadet subsidiary label. Spice of Life was her second full-length project for them and it is known for “Woman of the Ghetto” and her famous cover of Ashford and Simpson’s “California Soul.” Shaw later sang with Count Basie’s orchestra and became the first woman artist signed to Blue Note Records. During this time period the label released the controversially titled Who Is This Bitch, Anyway in 1974. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Loving You Was Like A Party” were just two of the songs that made this collection her best-selling Blue Note album. In the ’70’s she recorded for Columbia and released music rooted more in soul such as the Just A Matter Of Time and Sweet Beginnings albums. The latter had the highly-regarded “Yu Ma/Go Away Little Boy” and “Look At Me, Look At You.” In 1980 she covered the Diana Ross song “Touch Me In The Morning” for her Take A Bite release. Her 1988 album Love Is In Flight was another favored soul outing. “Before You Know It,” “Loving You” and “Love Is In Flight” made this recording a standout in her catalog. In ’96 and ’97 she recorded Dangerous and Elemental Soul for the Concord label. Shaw still tours and her last output was Lookin’ For Love in 2003 on the 411 Records imprint.