Renowned R&B Icon Marlena Shaw, Voice Behind ‘California Soul,’ Passes Away At 81, Leaving a Timeless Musical Legacy

by Gee NY

Renowned R&B singer Marlena Shaw, best known for her iconic hit “California Soul,” passed away at the age of 81, as confirmed by her daughter Marla Bradshaw on Jan. 19.

In a heartfelt video shared on Facebook, Marla Bradshaw announced the sad news of her mother’s passing. She expressed the heavy hearts of the family and shared that Marlena Shaw peacefully left the world at 12:03.

While not delving into specific details surrounding her mother’s death, Bradshaw assured fans that relevant information would be shared in due course.

“Obviously, I’m not going to go into too many details, but as her fans, when it’s needing to be known it will be. Right now, she’s at peace, she’s in heaven, I do know that,” said Bradshaw.

Born on September 22, 1939, Marlena Shaw began her singing career at a young age, making her debut at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem at just 10 years old.

In the 1960s, she gained widespread recognition with hits like “California Soul” and “Woman of the Ghetto,” using her music to shed light on the experiences of Black women during the Civil Rights era.

Marlena Shaw’s impact on the music industry continued into the 1980s when her album “It Is Love: Recorded Live At Vine St.” was released under Verve Records.

The album played a pivotal role in reviving the Verve label, as noted in the label’s press release following Shaw’s passing.

“We are saddened by the passing of Marlena Shaw, a wonderful singer whose ‘California Soul’ is as popular today as it ever was and whose album ‘It Is Love: Recorded Live At Vine St.’ helped relaunch the Verve label in 1987,” the record label stated.

Beyond her own era, “California Soul” became a timeless classic, finding new life through samples in the emerging genre of Hip Hop.

Artists like Gang Starr, DJ Shadow, and contemporary figures like Diplo have incorporated the iconic track into their own music, solidifying Marlena Shaw’s enduring influence on the musical landscape.

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