RIP Marva Whitney “Soul Sister #1”

Marva Whitney – the woman James Brown dubbed “Soul Sister #1″ – has passed away aged 68.

Whitney was a featured vocalist with the James Brown Revue in the late ‘60s, performing with Brown on tour in America, Europe, North Africa and in Vietnam during the war. She recorded several songs for Brown’s King Records including her biggest hit, a rewrite of the Isley Brothers track ‘It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who to Sock It To)’. She’s also known for her song ‘Unwind Yourself’, which has been sampled numerous times, most notably by DJ Mark the 45 King on his 1987 track ‘The 900 Number’ and on DJ Kool’s 1996 hit ‘Let Me Clear My Throat’. In 2006, Whitney collaborated with DJ Pari and the James Brown inspired Japanese funk orchestra Osaka Monaurail to produce a new album, I Am What I Am. The success of this revival saw Whitney return to the touring circuit to play shows in Japan, Europe and Australia.

Whitney visited Australia in 2009 appearing at the Falls festival and performing as part of the festival’s opening day Soul and Funk Revue. FL’s review of the show reported that with Adelaide’s Transatlantics acting as her backing band, Whitney took little time to prove why, in her heyday, she gained the title “Marvellous Marva” but a few songs into her set the then 65-year-old singer collapsed with many in the crowd believing that she had “pulled a James Brown.” However it soon became clear that she had suffered a stroke when she was carried from the stage leaving Transatlantics vocalist Tara Lynch to complete the set. Whitney was taken to Geelong Hospital and cancelled the remaining dates on her tour, however she did recover enough to perform several shows the following year.

The Transatlantics have posted a message on their Facebook page declaring that “Marva truly was one of the soul greats and sharing the stage with her was a huge privilege! Our love goes out to her family and friends. You will be missed Soul Sister #1.”