January 22, 2024

Marlena Shaw, Known for Singing 'California Soul,' Dead at 81

Marlena Shaw, the renowned jazz and R&B vocalist known for her iconic track "California Soul," has died at the age of 81.

Her daughter, Marla Bradshaw, shared the news of Shaw's passing in a Facebook video posted on Friday, expressing that her mother passed away peacefully.

Shaw's impact on the music industry is evident through her timeless hit "California Soul," released in 1969. The track has become a cultural fixture, featured in various television ads for brands such as Dockers, KFC, and Dodge Ram trucks.

It has been sampled in numerous hip-hop songs, including works by Gang Starr, Stereo MC’s, and Diplo's remix.

While "California Soul" stands out as one of Shaw's most recognized tracks, her influence extends to "Woman of the Ghetto," sampled in 54 songs, according to

Shaw's highest-charting album in the U.S. was "Sweet Beginnings" in 1977, featuring her stylish cover of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Go Away Little Girl."

Born Marlina Burgess in New Rochelle, N.Y., on Sept. 22, 1942, Shaw credited her uncle, jazz trumpeter Jimmy Burgess, with introducing her to the world of "good music," including the likes of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

Throughout her career, Shaw recorded for labels such as Cadet Records, Blue Note Records, Verve, Concord Jazz, and Columbia.

Verve Records paid tribute to her legacy, stating, "We are saddened by the passing of Marlena Shaw, a wonderful singer whose 'California Soul' is as popular today as it ever was."

In her video message, Marla Bradshaw shared that her mother went peacefully, listening to some of her favorite songs. Bradshaw expressed gratitude for the support from fans and emphasized that "Up unto the end, she was Marlena."

The passing of Marlena Shaw marks the end of an era for the music industry, leaving behind a timeless legacy.

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