Marlena Shaw, who is best known for her hit track California Soul, has reportedly passed away at the age of 81.
According to Deadline, Shaw’s daughter Marla confirmed that she died on Friday, Jan. 19. “Hello everyone, it is with a heavy heart that for myself and my family, I announced that our beloved mother, your beloved icon artist, Marlena Shaw, has passed away today at 12:03. She was peaceful, we were at peace. She went listening to some of her favorite songs.”
Shaw began her singing career in the early 1960s, with her music often sampled in hip-hop as well as used in television commercials. Her track California Soul made its debut in 1969 and was written by Ashford & Simpson. It was also originally issued as a single by The 5th Dimension. The song made an appearance in various commercials for KFC, Dodge Ram trucks, and more. She released 17 albums with eight different record labels.
Marlena Shaw also recorded the theme song, Don’t Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow for the 1977 film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Other tracks she’s known for are Out of Different Bags, The Spice of Life, and Woman of the Ghetto.
Marlena Shaw Once Revealed Who Helped/Influenced Her Music
During a 2007 interview, Marlena Shaw opened up about who influenced her to sing and play music.
“My Uncle Jimmy Burgess was a jazz trumpet play,” she explained. “My grandmother and my uncle basically raised me. He taught me how to structure chords on the piano in order for me to accompany him. For the other stuff, like Gospel music, I play by ear and am-self-taught or perhaps I should say, I play by ear.”
When also asked about the best advice she had ever received, Marlena Shaw reflected on the tip that Count Basie told her. “‘Whatever music you’re singing never place the tempo faster than a heartbeat,’” she then recalled. “Over the years I found that getting the right tempo depends on the feeling.
When it came to overcoming stage fright, Shaw admitted that she struggled with being in front of a large audience. “Being in front of a large audience scares me!” she admitted. “Usually for just a little while. Once I begin singing, the fight usually goes away. I do like working with people who have similar fan bases.”
In regards to her favorite collaborations, Marlena Shaw had a few. “Both Nathan [Haines] and Lofty [at Chilli Funk] are simply the coolest. Nathan suggested me for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which I toured with in ’05. What a kick!”