Marlena Shaw

Jazz, blues, and soul vocalist Marlena Shaw – born September 22, 1939, in New Rochelle, New York - drew most of her early influences from her uncle, the jazz trumpeter Jimmy Burgess, who introduced her to many records by various jazz greats, notably Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Burgess was also responsible for Marlena Shaw's first stage appearance with his band at Harlem's famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem in 1952 when she was only 10. He wanted her to tour with the band, but her mother wouldn't allow it and enrolled her instead at a music college. She went on to carve out a career singing in jazz clubs with trumpeter Howard McGhee, leaving to go out on her own after an argument. In 1966, she landed a regular spot at the Playboy Club chain in Chicago, sang for a while with the Count Basie Orchestra, and toured with Sammy Davis Jr. Marlena Shaw was ultimately signed by Cadet Records, releasing her first two albums on the label: Out of Different Bags (1967) and The Spice of Life (1969). In 1972, she moved to Blue Note Records and achieved one of the era's biggest disco hits with a classic 1979 dance cover of “Touch Me In The Morning,” also a massive hit for Diana Ross in 1973. It was to be her biggest success - later sampled on various hip-hop tracks - but she continued to make live appearances and record jazz records for the next three decades including Let Me in Your Life (1982), Love Is in Flight (1988), Dangerous (1996), Elemental Soul (1997), Lookin’ for Love (2004). Marlena Shaw died on January 19, 2024, at the age of 84.

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