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Marva Whitney

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Marva Whitney (born Marva Ann Manning in Kansas City, Kansas on May 1, 1944 - December 22, 2012) was an American soul/funk singer. She is considered by many funk enthusiasts to be one of the “rawest” and “brassiest” music divas.

Whitney’s performing career started as early as three years old while touring with her family’s gospel group, the Manning Gospel Singers. Singing with James Brown in the late 1960s, she was able to make a name for herself with powerful songs like “I’m Tired, I’m Tired, I’m Tired (Things Better Change Before It’s Too Late)” and “If You Don’t Work (You Can’t Eat).” Her recording of “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who to Sock It To)” reached the R&B Top 20. Her song “Unwind Yourself” has been sampled by numerous modern artists, including DJ Kool.

Although she’s not a household name, Marva Whitney is fondly remembered by funk devotees as one of the rawest, brassiest, most powerful divas the music ever produced. Along with fellow funk belters Lyn Collins and Vicki Anderson, Whitney made her name singing with the James Brown Revue for a few years, and her limited, much-sampled recordings for Brown-associated labels now fetch astronomical sums on the collector’s market. Born in Kansas City, Whitney began performing at the age of three with her family’s touring gospel group, the Manning Gospel Singers. She studied music in college and caught on as lead singer of the R&B group Tommy Gadson & the Derbys.

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