American soul and jazz singer best known for California Soul, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy and Go Away Little Girl
Over the course of a long career, the American singer Marlena Shaw moved from jazz to soul and back again, searching for settings that would best enhance her fine voice. In later decades she commanded the allegiance of the British fans of the rare-groove movement, who rediscovered and particularly cherished her version, released in 1969, of a much recorded song called California Soul.
Shaw, who has died aged 81, made her first stage appearance at the Apollo theatre in Harlem, New York, when she was 10 years old. Billie Holiday was still alive and Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington were other inescapable influences on a jazz-inclined teenage singer seemingly destined to work with big bands in dancehalls and smaller groups in nightclubs. In her later years she became familiar with the sound of hip-hop artists basing their hits on samples from her singles and album tracks.
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