Marlena Shaw  

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Marlena Shaw (1942 – 2024) was an American singer who worked in jazz, blues, and soul "Woman of the Ghetto" (1969) and "California Soul" (1969).



Marlena Shaw was born in New Rochelle, New York. 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. Shaw enrolled in the New York State Teachers College in Potsdam (now known as the State University of New York at Potsdam) to study music but she later dropped out.


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. Undeterred, 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 funk-soul tune written by Ashford & Simpson and originally issued as a single by American pop quintet The 5th Dimension, later became a staple of the UK rare groove scene. This song has appeared in television commercials for Dockers, KFC and Dodge Ram trucks. 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: "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 sings the theme song "Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow" from the 1977 film Looking for Mr. Goodbar that's also found on its soundtrack. 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 continued to perform and record. In 1999, 2001 and again in 2007, Shaw was one of the performers at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands.



Year Album Chart positions Label
US Jazz
1967 Out of Different Bags Cadet
1969 The Spice of Life
1972 Marlena Blue Note
1973 From the Depths of My Soul
1974 Marlena Shaw Live at Montreux
1975 Who Is This Bitch, Anyway? 159 47 8
1976 Just a Matter of Time 25
1977 Sweet Beginnings 62 14 12 Columbia
1978 Acting Up 171
1979 Take a Bite
1982 Let Me in Your Life South Bay
1987 It Is Love (Recorded Live at Vine St.) 7 Verve
1988 Love Is in Flight 20 Polydor
1996 Dangerous Concord Jazz
1997 Elemental Soul
2002 Live in Tokyo 441 Records
2004 Lookin' for Love
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

As guest

With Benny Carter

With others


As lead artist

List of charting and certified singles as a lead artist, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Year Chart positions Certifications Album
  • For all except noted:
US Cash


  • For all except noted:

  • For "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy":
  • For "Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy":





"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" 1967 58 66 33 37 11 Template:N/a
"It's Better Than Walkin' Out" 1976 74 83 Just a Matter of Time
"Pictures And Memories" 1977 24 Sweet Beginnings
"Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy" 79 21 19 46 35
"Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar
(Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow)
1978 45 Looking for Mr. Goodbar
"Love Dancin'" 1979 49 Take A Bite
"Never Give Up on You" 1983 91 48 Let Me in Your Life
"California Soul" 2004 The Spice of Life
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Linking in in 2024

Abraham Laboriel, Accept Your Own and Be Yourself (The Black Album), Acting Up, Alan Eichler, Alan O'Day, Allan Schwartzberg, Apollo Kids (album), Arthur Jenkins (musician), Artie Kane, Ben Castle, Benard Ighner, Bianco (harpist), Bill Mays, Blue Note Records discography, Bob Babbitt, Boyfriend (Mabel song), Brainfreeze (album), Bruno Destrez, Burt Collins, Cadet Records, California Jazz Conservatory, California Soul, Charles Stepney, Chris Potter (jazz saxophonist), Christophe Roberts, Chuck Rainey, Collectables Records, Cornell Dupree, Cynthia Weil, David T. Walker, Dee Dee Bridgewater (1976 album), Dennis Budimir, Denys Baptiste, Derek Smith (musician), Diplo production discography, Don Alias, Earl May, Eddie Bert, Eddie Brown (musician), Electric Picnic, Flow Festival line-ups, Flow Festival, Fly International Luxurious Art, Frank Foster (jazz musician), Frank Gagliardi, Freddy Cole, Frederick Knight (singer), From the Depths of My Soul, Gene Bertoncini, George Gaffney, Gloria Jones, Go Away Little Girl, Grady Tate, Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, Habits & Contradictions, Harry Lookofsky, Harvey Mason, Heart Is Full, Herbie Lovelle, High Expectations, Hiram Bullock, Hugh McCracken, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, Iii (Miike Snow album), Independence (Lulu album), It's Better than Walking Out, James Gadson, Jay Berliner, Jay Graydon, Jazz at the Maltings, Jazz Bilzen, Jeanius, Jeff Johnson (bass player), Jimmy Maelen, Jimmy Radcliffe, Joe Williams (jazz singer), Johnny Bristol, Jon Faddis, Just a Matter of Time (Marlena Shaw album), Kamille (musician), Kevin Mahogany, Kevin Toney, Larry Carlton, Larry Fuller (pianist), Lee Garrett, Lee Magid, Lew Soloff, List of African-American singers, List of jazz vocalists, List of songs about Los Angeles, List of songs about Paris, Lists of African Americans, Looking for Mr. Goodbar (film), Looking Through the Eyes of Love, Magic (TV channel), Marlena (Marlena Shaw album), Marlena Shaw Live at Montreux, Marlena, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Michael Cain, Midnight in a Perfect World, Miriam Cutler, Montreux Jazz Festival, Morris Jennings, Nathan Haines, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, Paul Griffin (musician), Paul Tillman Smith, Peter Washington, Pillow Talk (Miki Howard album), Rahn Coleman, Remember Me (Blue Boy song), Remember Me (Daley song), Richie Pratt, Rick Germanson, Rodney Franklin, Samantha Rose, September 1942, Shaw (name), Since I Left You, Some of My Best Friends Are...Singers, Songbook (Benny Carter album), Songbook Volume II, Stanley Turrentine, Tchami, The Saint (New York City), The Soulful Strings, The Spice of Life (Marlena Shaw album), This Time I'll Be Sweeter, Ties of Love, Tom Malone (musician), Tommy Campbell (musician), Tommy Vig, Tony Bongiovi, Tourist (St Germain album), Twisted (Annie Ross song), Unforgettable (Nat King Cole song), Verve Remixed, Virginia Mayhew, Wade Marcus, Wayne Andre, Welton Gite, Who Is This Bitch, Anyway?, Wilbur Bascomb, Wildflower (Skylark song)

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