17 July 1957 (age 60)
New Castle, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, United States
There are, at least, three artists known as Mike Marshall:
1) The lead singer in a loosely organized collective known, Timex Social Club, in 1985. They were bound together simply; they started with the limited ambition of creating a song or two for the types of multicultural parties that they frequented. But in less than a year, they would have a top-ten single and be loudly announcing the birth of a new musical form: Hip-Hop Soul. Neither Michael nor the other members had any way of knowing that in less than two decades this sound would become far more than just the sound of their parties, but sound of the planet; the soundtrack to everything from fast food to vacation. And today, though Mary J. Blige and P. Diddy collect a disproportionate share of the credit, it was years earlier that the genre first came to national prominence. This came with the release of the hit single "Rumors" and was cemented during the summer of 1986 as the song and a nascent musical form gained traction in the national conscious.
Radio programmers were perplexed. It was urban and had an edge. But it wasn’t rap. The song that Michael sang helped Timex chart into the top ten and gain national momentum with heavy radio play. Suddenly, the band was invited to tour with Run D.M.C. and L.L. Cool J. A second single, "Thinkin’ About You" advanced the trend of Hip-Hop Soul. Finally, after a hastily produced tour and a long summer on the road, "Mixed Up World" would be the final hit for Timex. The members of the collective, much like the super groups of the past, were headed for an ugly divorce. And legal wrangling and the simple fact of being a young and inexperienced kid in the music business left Michael in limbo. The band that had all but invented Hip-Hop Soul would be left out of its first mainstream successes. And the singer who brought the harmonic structures and knack for countermelody made famous by Marvin Gaye and Prince would be forced to wait it out as his music became the soulful counterpoint to grunge in the early 1990s.
Not surprisingly to anyone who knew him then, Michael never stopped singing. He sang and recorded compulsively, and a library of demos from this time document his continuous advancement. It would be an irony of considerable proportions that would bring him back to prominence. In 1995, producer Tone Capone sampled the beat from "Why You Treat Me So Bad"; the song had been a monster hit for the Timex spin-off act Club Nouveau and a consistent source of ire for Michael, as it borrowed liberally from his own "Thinkin’ About You." But Tone had a plan for the beat, matching it to rapped verses from Oakland rappers The Luniz and then pairing this product to Michael’s chorus. The result was arguably the most singularly memorable song in the history of Bay Area Hip-Hop: "I Got 5 on It". In a Hip-Hop moment most remembered for bi-coastal hostilities and tragedy, "I Got 5 on It" stands as one of the most durable songs of the genre that didn’t originate in either New York or Los Angeles, but had a national impact from coast to coast. Yet, there was one fact that might be even more significant: the song’s form of rapped verses and sung chorus, were suddenly and profoundly on the musical radar. Hip-hop soul had once again mutated, and its Zelig—Mike Marshall—was again hugely responsible.
But again Mike, without a plan and self-sustaining platform, found himself on the outside looking in. The Luniz were—for all intents and purposes—a rap group. Mike was not a member. The group would go their own course without him, performing their most popular song again and again without its lead singer. If this irony bothered Michael, it never showed. As always, he remained prolific, continuing to forge musical relationships throughout the Bay Area and write songs. It was during this time that he joined forces with the seminal Berkeley neo-soul band The Mo’Fessionals. For more than two years, Michael would play and record with them, bringing his soulful vocals and dense harmonies to a band that fused Hip-Hop, soul, jazz, and funk into a roiling stew that was decidedly ahead of its time. For a solid two years, The Mo’Fessionals reigned as one of the Bay Area’s premier live show and most certainly one of its best-unsigned acts. As the band’s popularity crested, they struggled to complete Finally Over, the band’s only album. After numerous roadblocks, the album was released with minimal support and tour plans were aborted. Neither a failure nor a success, it remains a worthy testament to what could have been.
Crestfallen and needing a new challenge, Michael seized on an opportunity to live and record in Nuremburg, Germany. In partnership with an expatriated American producer, his vocals charted regularly in Europe, with the highlight being his collaboration with rapper AK Swift on "Light in Me." The song made it into the Top 15 on the German charts and afforded Michael the luxury of doing some modest touring on the continent. As always, he was still advancing the platform that he helped originate. But after several years, it became apparent that he was chafing under the production qualities that European audiences demand. He needed to return home. He needed the familiar. He needed The Bay.
Upon returning, he hit the studio hard. Almost immediately, he settled into a solid working relationship with producer Nick Peace and his Million Dollar Dream label. He sang on "He Said She Said" with rapper Andre Nickatina, a song from the album Hell’s Kitchen. He also reunited with fellow Timex alumni, producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, to write and record songs for En Vogue’s comeback album, Sunflower. "All You See" and "How Do I Get Over You" featured his vocals and—despite the album’s middling sales figures—serve to remind listeners about one of Rhythm and Blues’ signature talents. Not all of Mike’s efforts during these first years back from Germany were widely received. But the volume of work that he amassed is significant. And so are the people he worked with.
The who’s who of Mike’s collaborations now stretches on and on, name checking half of The Bay Area and beyond. Keak da’ Sneak. San Quinn. Casual, from Hieroglyphics. E.A. Ski. E-40. Suga’ T. 3XKrazy. Rankin’ Scroo. Turf Talk. And then the work in Germany with Bootsy Collins. The set with Thelma Houston. The Weather Girls. Michael has been all over the R&B and hip-hop map, mixing and matching, innovating and re-creating.
But Michael’s latest reinvention would drop in 2004 and 2005. Now wielding the stage persona of "Mike Meezy", Marshall released two albums in less than a calendar year. First a collaborative effort with stellar San Francisco-based rapper Equipto, entitled "K.I.M. (Keep It Movin’)." Among the tracks on this album, "Da Beauty" (The Family)" and "Keep Rising" show him in top form, building sticky vocal hooks with dense harmonic choruses.
Now amidst the fog of the past Mike forges into the future with his latest body of work Love, Lies and Life on MDD/DeSantis. With Love, Lies and Life Mike is telling his story. This is the story of pleasure and pain, tragedy and triumph – his story. He sings that song that people know the words to, but do not know the author, the vocalist, the name – the soul, behind. Personal struggles, business beefs and everlasting challenges drive Mike to deliver a message that packages the truth of his life. This is the story of Mike Marshall – the brother whose name you need to know.
2) A USA mandolin player & multi-instrumentalist, who grew up in central Florida and now lives in Oakland, California. Marshall has been a part of new acoustic music since the early 1980s. He has performed and recorded with many musicians in a variety of styles, including bluegrass, classial, jazz and Brazilian music. In addition to several instruments within the mandolin family, Marshall also plays the guitar and violin.
Marshall has recorded and toured with other contemporary acoustic musicians such as David Grisman, Tony Rice, Mark O'Connor, Stéphane Grappelli, Darol Anger, Barbara Higbie, and Jerry Douglas. His two recordings on the Sony Classical label: Uncommon Ritual with banjo innovator Béla Fleck and bassist Edgar Meyer; and Short Trip Home with violinist Joshua Bell, mandolinist Sam Bush and Meyer were both on the Billboard Classical Music charts.
Marshall and his long time partner, Darol Anger, have released 6 albums as a duo on Compass and Windham Hill Records. Together they have also recorded with their experimental bluegrass group Psychograss with guitarist David Grier, banjo player Tony Trischka and bassist Todd Phillips.
From 1984 to 1988 Mike Marshall was part of the group Montreux, named for the Montreux Jazz Festival where they played a concert which was good enough to be released from Windham Hill, Live At Montreux - Darol Anger/Barbara Higbie Quintet. The group released two studio recordings, Sign Language and Let Them Say, before breaking up.
Marshall's strength in classical music led to his co-founding in 1986 of Modern Mandolin Quartet, a string quartet of mandolin family instruments. The group released four recordings for Windham Hill Records and in 1995, the Quartet made its Carnegie Hall debut.
Mike has worked with Chris Thile from the group Nickel Creek. Their CD Into the Cauldron, released in 2003 on Sugar Hill Records, was listed in the top ten of Amazon.com’s favorite recordings for 2003.
In addition to touring and recording regularly, Mike is also a partner in the music label, Adventure Music, which is dedicated to releasing music from Brazil as well as Mike’s own projects. His latest releases include Serenata, a duet recording of with pianist Jovino Santos Neto featuring the compositions of Hermeto Pascoal, and an album by his Brazilian group Choro Famoso. He also the composer of the theme music "Peter Pan" for local Public Radio affilliate KQED's talkshow, Forum with Michael Krasny.
Marshall is also a cook, and has been known to trade music lessons for cooking instruction with some of the San Francisco Bay area's finest chefs. He is also a producer, based in his Oakland Gatorland Studios.
He and his wife, volinist Kaila Flexer, a Klezmer musician, have one daughter.
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