Marlena Shaw

Marlena Shaw (born Sept. 22, 1942) is an American soul singer who recorded two albums and assorted singles for Cadet during the late 1960s, culminating with the popular 1969 release The Spice of Life. Between 1972 and 1976, she released five albums on Blue Note, followed by a trio of titles on Columbia during the second half of the decade. Albums appeared more sporadically on South Bay, Verve, and Concord Jazz during the subsequent two decades.

Marlena Shaw was born in New Rochelle, NY, on September 22, 1942. Her uncle, Jimmy Burgess, was a jazz trumpeter who introduced her to the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and singer Al Hibbler, who impressed her with his vocal phrasing. At age 10, she sang with her uncle’s band on stage at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. She later studied music at the New York State Teachers College in Potsdam but didn’t finish the program.

Shaw made her initial impressions as a jazz vocalist in 1963, doing a brief stint with Howard McGhee. After several years on the club circuit, she got a residency at Chicago’s Playboy Club, where she was spotted by representatives of Chess Records. Her first single, “Let’s Wade in the Water” (b/w “Show Time”), appeared that year on Cadet, a division of Chess.

Studio Discography:

  • Out of Different Bags (1967)
  • The Spice of Life (1969)
  • Marlena (1972)
  • From the Depths of My Soul (1973)
  • Who Is This Bitch, Anyway? (1975)
  • Just a Matter of Time (1976)
  • Sweet Beginnings (1977)
  • Acting Up (1978)
  • Take a Bite (1979)
  • Let Me in Your Life (1982)
  • Love Is in Flight (1988)

Live albums:

  • Marlena Shaw Live at Montreux (1974)
  • It Is Love (1986)


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