Track Of The Week #4 – Marlena Shaw ‘Woman Of The Ghetto’

I feel that it’s only appropriate to mark the first month of track of the week with a timeless classic and a song which relates to those previously posted. This week’s song comes from soul-queen Marlena Shaw and is entitled ‘Woman of the Ghetto’. Shaw has been a hugely popular figure in the US soul scene for many years now and is most commonly known for her hit ‘California Soul’. Shaw’s career is one of the longest spanning in soul history and she is still singing today. Born in New York in 1942, Shaw grew up New Rochelle city, one of the largest cities in New York and went on to be voted as one of the best to live in back in 2008. However, things were not always this way. Growing up was hard for Shaw and most of her music depicted the everyday struggles and turmoils that life in the city presented for a young black woman.


Shaw was brought into the music industry from a young age as her talent was apparent. Her uncle Jimmy Burgess was an acclaimed New York Jazz trumpet player and helped to ease Shaw into the scene, bringing her onstage to sing over him and his band’s music. One thing lead to another and before soon Shaw was releasing music of her own.

This week’s song comes from Shaw’s second and best-selling album, ‘The Spice of Life’. In ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ it appears that Shaw aims her complaints about hardships and life at the legislator and the so-called ‘man in the ivory tower’, a reference to the rich elite at the top of the class divide. The social context of the song is highly significant as it is believed to have spoken for millions of Americans living in the same, neglected situation. This still echoes through today’s society, henceforth her work being dubbed as ‘Timeless’. Negative connotations aside, ‘Woman of the ghetto’ is a funky and iconic classic which deserves heaps of praise. The catchy bass-line and simplistic drumbeat leave the song’s canvas blank enough for Shaw to decorate it with her voice, and decorate it she does. Since releasing the album, ‘The Spice of Life’, Shaw’s career has been recognised by triumph after triumph. Her music has had a vibrant life outside of soul too as she has been frequently sampled across hip-hop and television throughout the past thirty years. ‘The Spice Of Life’ however, is where it all started. And with timeless classics like ‘Woman Of The Ghetto’ and ‘California Soul’ it isn’t hard to see why.

Listen & enjoy here –


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