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'California Soul' singer Marlena Shaw dies at 81

Marlena Shaw, studio portrait, New York, 1977. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Marlena Shaw in a studio portrait in New York in 1977. (Michael Putland / Getty Images)

The jazz and R&B vocalist Marlena Shaw, whose "California Soul" has become a staple element of ads and hip-hop songs, has died. She was 81.

Shaw's daughter, Marla Bradshaw, announced the legendary singer's death in a Facebook video posted Friday.

“It is with a very heavy heart that for myself and my family, I announce that our beloved mother, your beloved icon and artist, Marlena Shaw, has passed away today at 12:03. She was peaceful; we were at peace," Bradshaw said in the video.

"I know that you just saw posts of [a] birthday celebration just as soon as yesterday. And my twin sister and I were very grateful, and our family, that she was here in celebration for that. Obviously, I'm not going to go into too many details, but [to] her fans ... she is at peace. She is in Heaven. I do know that."

Shaw's 1969 "California Soul" will be instantly recognizable to many today for its use in television ads (such as for Dockers, KFC and Dodge Ram trucks) and sampling in hip-hop songs. WhoSampled.com lists 35 songs that sample it, including "Check the Technique" by Gang Starr, "Sofisticated" by Stereo MC's and Diplo's remix of the song.

Read more: JAZZ REVIEW : A World-Class Show From Marlena Shaw

Though "California Soul" is probably Shaw's best-known track, her "Woman of the Ghetto" has been sampled even more frequently, with 54 songs borrowing elements of its live version and another 15 pulling from its studio version, according to WhoSampled.

Shaw's highest-charting album in the U.S. was 1977's "Sweet Beginnings," which memorably included her swanky cover of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Go Away Little Girl" in the track "Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy," which achieved some R&B chart success. The album peaked at No. 62.

She was born Marlina Burgess (Shaw, as well as "Marlene Bradshaw," were stage names) in New Rochelle, N.Y., on Sept. 22, 1942. Her uncle, Jimmy Burgess, was a jazz trumpeter whom she credited with introducing her to "good music" — the likes of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

Shaw eventually recorded for the Chess imprint Cadet Records and jazz giant Blue Note Records, as well as Verve, Concord Jazz and Columbia (despite having botched an audition for Columbia's legendary John Hammond many years before).

Verve Records said in a Facebook post, "We are saddened by the passing of Marlena Shaw, a wonderful singer whose 'California Soul' is as popular today as it ever was and whose album 'It Is Love: Recorded Live At Vine St.' helped relaunch the Verve label in 1987."

"She went very peacefully, and she went listening to some of her favorite songs," Bradshaw said in her video message. "Thank you for being part of her life, especially these last three years, which made her very happy, to have the Facebook page and to interact with all of you.

"Up unto the end, she was Marlena."

Shaw had five children.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.