Marlena Shaw, ‘California Soul’ singer, dead at 81


Marlena Shaw, the voice behind the famous tune “California Soul,” died Friday, Jan. 19 at age 81, her family said.

Shaw’s daughter, MarLa Bradshaw, confirmed her death to Fox News Digital, after making a video announcement on Facebook. “It’s with a very heavy heart for myself and my family I announce that our beloved mother, your beloved icon and artist, Marlena Shaw has passed away,” she shared.

“She was peaceful. We were at peace,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw did not disclose her mother’s cause of death, though she alluded to hardships in the last three years. Shaw had just celebrated her 81st birthday in September. Bradshaw told Fox News Digital that the family was “securing a date for her celebration,” and more details would be released when that was confirmed.


Shaw, a longtime Las Vegas resident, had five children, including a son who preceded her in death.

“We just want to say thank you in advance for your prayers and comfort for our family,” Bradshaw said in her video, sharing a P.O. Box address where fans can send their condolences. “Thank you all for being on her [Facebook] page, thank you for being a part of her life. Especially these last three years, which made her really happy.”

Marlena Shaw smiles in a black and white photo with Sammy Davis Jr.

Shaw made her impression on the music industry as a jazz, blues and soul singer in the ‘60s, playing at small clubs. In 1966, she scored a gig with a Playboy Club in Chicago, where she’d meet and sign with Chess Records. They produced her first two albums from a subsidiary.

Her track “California Soul,” released in 1969, would go on to appear in several commercials. Shaw later changed paths and signed with the jazz-centered label, Blue Note Records, in 1972.

Shaw would later sing the theme song to “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” a 1977 film.

Marlena Shaw lies on her arm and soft smiles in a portrait

“She went listening to some of her favorite songs,” Bradshaw said of her mother. “Right now she’s at peace. She’s in heaven.”

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