Marlena Shaw


Marlena Shaw (born Marlina Burgess, September 22, 1942 in New Rochelle, New York) is an American singer. Shaw began her singing career in the 1960s and is still singing today. Her music has often been sampled in hip hop music, and used in television commercials.


She was first introduced to music by her uncle Jimmy Burgess, a jazz trumpet player. In an interview with The New York Times, she told the reporter ?He [Jimmy Burgess] introduced me to good music through records - Dizzy [Gillespie], Miles [Davis], a lot of gospel things, and Al Hibbler, who really knows how to phrase a song.? In 1952, Burgess brought her on stage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to sing with his band. Shaw's mother did not want Marlena to go on tour with her uncle at such a young age. Instead, she enrolled Shaw into the New York State Teachers College in Potsdam (now known as the State University of New York at Potsdam) to study music. She later dropped out of school, got married, and had five children, but never gave up her singing career.

Shaw began to make singing appearances in jazz clubs whenever she could spare the time. The most notable of these appearances was in 1963 when she worked with jazz trumpeter Howard McGhee. She was supposed to play at the Newport Jazz Festival with McGhee and his band, but left the group after getting into an argument with one of the band members. Later that year, she got an audition with Columbia label talent scout John Hammond. Shaw did not perform well during the audition because she was too nervous. Undiscouraged, she continued to play small clubs until 1966. Her career took off in 1966 when she landed a gig with the Playboy Club chain in Chicago. It was through this gig that she met with representatives of the Chess Records music label, and soon signed with them. She released her first two albums on their subsidiary Cadet Records. A 1969 album track "California Soul" a pop-soul tune written by Ashford & Simpson and originally issued as a single by American pop quintet The Fifth Dimension later became a staple of the UK rare groove scene and following its use in a TV advert in the 2000s' is now her best known recording in the UK. Unable to find her own style at Chess, she moved to the jazz-oriented Blue Note Records in 1972.

In 1977 she released an LP Sweet Beginnings on Columbia that contained, arguably, Shaw's finest moment: Yu Ma / Go Away Little Boy, a medley containing the old Goffin and Carole King standard, originally recorded by Nancy Wilson.

The album also contained the track Look At Me, Look At You, popular on the U.K. rare groove scene. She also recorded one of the disco era's biggest hits, a remake of "Touch Me in the Morning", also on Columbia Records.

In 1982 Marlena recorded the Gary Taylor ballad called "Without You In My Life" from the LP "Let Me In Your Life" that was jointly produced by Johnny Bristol and Webster Lewis on South Bay records. This had moderate chart success in the USA. In 1983 she recorded the vocals for Could It Be You, a track by Phil Upchurch on his Name Of The Game album.

Shaw still performs and records today. In 2001 and 2007 Shaw was one of the performers at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands.

Selected discography


  • Out of Different Bags (1967)
  • The Spice of Life (1969)

Blue Note

  • Marlena (1972)
  • From the Depths of My Soul (1973)
  • Marlena Shaw Live at Montreux (1974)
  • Who Is This Bitch, Anyway? (1975)
  • Just a Matter of Time (1976)


  • Sweet Beginnings (1977)
  • Acting Up (1978)
  • Take A Bite (1979)

South Bay

  • Let Me In Your Life (1982)


  • It Is Love (1986)
  • Love Is In Flight (1988)

Concord Jazz

  • Dangerous (1996)
  • Elemental Soul (1997)

Soul Brother Records

  • Anthology (2000)
  • Live In Tokyo (2002)
  • Lookin' For Love (2004)


  • Blue Boy's "Remember Me" (1996) included sample from "Woman of the Ghetto" from the Live At Montreux album
  • No I.D. also sampled "Woman of the Ghetto" in the track "The Real Weight" on the album Accept Your Own and Be Yourself (The Black Album) (1997).
  • Ghostface Killah's song "Ghetto" (2010) contains samples of the recording "Woman of the Ghetto"
  • St. Germain sampled from "Woman of the Ghetto " from Live at Montreux used in "Rose Rouge" on Tourist (2000)
  • DJ Day "Gone BaKaos Oned" Melting Pot Records (2005) included a sample from "Liberation Conversation" from the Spice of Life album
  • DJ Shadow sampled her version of "California Soul" for "Midnight in a Perfect World" on Endtroducing, he also sampled the same song on his live Brainfreeze (album) set in collaboration with Cut Chemist. While DJ Premier also sampled the same song for the Gang Starr track "Check the Technique", and Adam Freeland sampled the track for "F.E.A.R." - this is more prominent on the version used as the soundtrack to "Area 05" in the 2001 video game Rez. Faze Action's track "Broad Souls" also used a sample from "California Soul". In addition, Syler's lead single off Syler presents The Empire State of Mind, entitled "Holden My Own" used the "California Soul" sample.
  • 9th Wonder and Buckshot also sampled "Woman of the Ghetto" in the track "Ghetto", and Evil Dee (of Black Moon)'s remix of the same song. 9th Wonder also sampled "You Taught Me How To Speak In Love" in the track "Sweetest Language" off of the EP "9th Wonder Presents: The Allies EP".
  • Spanish hip-hop group Violadores del Verso uses a sample from "Woman of the Ghetto" for the base of their song "Balantains"
  • Goldfish sampled "Woman of the Ghetto" for their 2013 single "Three Second Memory".
  • Dutch beer brand Grolsch used a sample of "California Soul" for a Dutch television commercial.
  • Jay Rock feat. The Game "California Soul" (2007) rap song sampled "California Soul".
  • "Squire for Hire" Nathan Haines (Chillifunk records 2003) featured Marlena Shaw vocals on the title track "Squire for Hire".
  • "California Soul" is played on the 2003 remake of The Italian Job. The song, however, does not appear on the movie's soundtrack.
  • In 2008, "California Soul" is used in a Docker's commercial.
  • Rapper Qwel sampled Marlena Shaw's song "You" on his song "The Highest Commitment" on the album If it Ain't Been in the Pawn Shop, it Can't Play the Blues.
  • "California Soul" is featured on one of the radio stations in the 2013 best selling video game Grand Theft Auto V
  • Producer Diplo remixed the track "California Soul" for the 2008 compilation The Verve Remixed Vol. 4.
  • DJ Premier sampled 'California Soul' in the Gang Starr track 'Check the Technique' from Step in the Arena (1990)
  • A "California Soul" remix featuring Ya Boy appeared over the end credits of The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011.
  • "California Soul" (remixed by Diplo) is featured in 2011 action driving game Driver: San Francisco
  • Canadian rapper Drake sampled Shaw's "Feel Like Making Love" for the song "Come Winter" from his mixtape "Room for Improvement"
  • Lodus Dei sampled Shaw's "Say a Good Word" for their song "Royal Lotus" on The Wasted Talent album."
  • The Wiseguys sampled "California Soul" in their song "The Sound Your Hear" on the album Executive Suite (1996).
  • The Italian producer DJ Argento sampled "I'm Back For More" in one Italian rapper Kaos One song "Dans Macabre" on the album "Post Scripta"
  • Miike Snow sampled "Waiting for Charlie to Come Home" in their song "Heart is Full" on the album "iii"


External links

  • Marlena Shaw interview by Pete Lewis, 'Blues & Soul' February 09
Source : Wikipedia

Top Tracks

California Soul 1

California Soul

Woman of the Ghetto 2

Woman of the Ghetto

Liberation Conversation 3

Liberation Conversation

Let's Wade In The Water 4

Let's Wade In The Water

Save The Children 5

Save The Children

California Soul (Diplo/Mad Decent Remix) 6

California Soul (Diplo/Mad Decent Remix)

California Soul - Diplo Remix 7

California Soul - Diplo Remix

Feel Like Making Love 8

Feel Like Making Love

Feel Like Makin' Love 9

Feel Like Makin' Love

Loving You Was Like A Party 10

Loving You Was Like A Party

Top Albums

Spice of Life
Spice of Life
The Spice Of Life
The Spice Of Life
Out Of Different Bags/Spice Of Life
Out Of Different Bags/Spice Of Life


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