By Brett Johnson
Marva Whitney, a funk singer with a powerful, passionate voice who toured and collaborated with James Brown, died last Saturday at age 68 from complications stemming from pneumonia, her manager told “The Root.” Brown had nicknamed her Soul Sister No. 1.
A message on a Facebook page dedicated to Whitney reads, “She left us with a legacy that will shine forever.” DJ Pari of Virginia-based SoulPower Inc. — which, according to its Facebook page, is an “internationally operating artist management and concert booking agency” — wrote in an email that Whitney’s surviving relatives include her mother, several siblings, two children and grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending, Pari added. From Billboard:
Whitney is best known for her version of “It’s My Thing,” which cracked the Hot 100 in 1969, and for the widely sampled track “Unwind Yourself,” which can be heard on songs by The 45 Kings, DJ Kool and Mac Miller, among others.
Born Marva Ann Manning, the singer began her career singing gospel music in Kansas City but found fame when she reluctantly joined the James Brown Revue in 1967 after turning down singing jobs with Bobby Bland and Little Richard.
“There was nothing here in Kansas City, so I had to make a decision at that age,” she said in a 2006 interview on We Funk Radio. “I knew this wasn’t what I wanted, because I was still playing for the church. But I made the decision and went to Cincinnati and signed with King Records.”