Marva Whitney, one of the greats of funk and soul and the woman whom James Brown called “Soul Sister #1″, passed away last night (December 23, 2012). She was 68.
Tributes and messages of sympathy are spreading across social media networks and music forums today, as it was announced on Marva Whitney’s official Facebook page that she had died overnight.
“We’re saddened to inform you that Soulsister #1 Marva Whitney passed away last night. She left us with a legacy that will shine forever. Please keep her family in your prayers.”
Hugely repected by funk devotees as one of the rawest, brassiest divas of all time, Marva sang regularly with James Brown, accompanying him on his late-’60s tour of Vietnam, as well as performing her own set as part of the James Brown Revue in 1967.
In 1969, Whitney made her first solo recordings for King, Brown’s label at the time. She scored a Top 20 hit on the R&B charts with ‘It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who to Sock It To)’, which was a rewrite of the Isley Brothers hit, and the follow-up, ‘Things Got to Get Better (Get Together)’ just missed the R&B Top 20. Much of Whitney’s work has been sampled in hip hop tracks, most notably ‘Unwind Yourself’.
In December 2009, Marva collapsed on stage in front of thousands of fans at the Falls Festival in Lorne, Australia, while performing with The Transatlantics. Taken to Geelong Hospital and diagnosed with a stroke, she made a recovery and was performing again in 2010.
No details have been officially released regarding her death, although her Wikipedia page has cited complications of pneumonia.
Northside Records, who already planned to host a local tribute to James Brown (who died on Christmas night six years ago) at the Espy in Melbourne tomorrow night have confirmed that Marva Whitney will be also honoured at the event.
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