Marlena Shaw Dies: Jazz/R&B Singer For Sampling Staple ‘California Soul’ Was 81

Singer Marlena Shaw, best known for her much-sampled hit, California Soul, has died at 81, according to a video posted to Facebook by her daughter, Marla. No details were given.

“Hello everyone, it is with a very heavy heart that for myself and my family, I announce that our beloved mother, your beloved icon and artist, Marlena Shaw, has passed away today at 12:03,” Marla said on the video. “She was peaceful, we were at peace.”

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Shaw’s California Soul was an track on her 1969 album, The Spice of Life, but later became a highly sought-after record for early hip-hop samplers. The song has been sampled by Gang Starr, DJ Shadow, Diplo and Nightmares on Wax.

The track was written by Ashford & Simpson and first recorded by The Messengers, and also became part of many television ads too. It currently has more than 100 million streams on Spotify.

Shaw was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1942. She was signed by Chicago blues/R&B label Chess Records in 1966, recording a series of albums over the next four decades., including 1977’s ‘Sweet Beginnings’ on Columbia Records, the highest charting record of her career.

She continued to perform live into the 2000s, and recorded the theme song Don’t Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow for the 1977 film, Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

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