California Soul

Dave Cortez, Marlena Shaw, Moon People

About California Soul

"California Soul" is a funk-soul tune written by Ashford & Simpson, issued originally as the B-side of the Messengers' single "Window Shopping" in 1967 under the Motown group of labels. Nick Ashford then released his own version in June 1968 on Verve 10599. It was then issued as a single by American pop quintet the 5th Dimension in late 1968, and also covered by Motown vocal duo Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and by Marlena Shaw the following year. It was Gaye's and Terrell's last single together when released in early 1970. Both the 5th Dimension's version and the Gaye-Terrell version were modest charted hits. The 5th Dimension's performed better, reaching number twenty-five on the pop singles chart. Marvin and Tammi's cover was the B-side of "The Onion Song". The duo's version of "California Soul" reached number fifty pop but never charted on the US R&B chart. The duet was released after Terrell's death from a brain tumor in March 1970. In 1969, Marlena Shaw covered the song on the album The Spice of Life. This version has appeared in commercials for Dockers, KFC and Dodge Ram trucks. A Diplo remix appears on Volume 4 of the Verve Remixed compilation series; this version was used in a late summer 2011 commercial for Target and was featured in the 2011 video game Driver: San Francisco. The original version of Shaw's cover also appears in the 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V, played by the in-game radio station The Lowdown 91.1. The song also appears on the 1970 LP War & Peace by Edwin Starr. The following year, the experimental vocal band the Undisputed Truth released this song on their debut album The Undisputed Truth, produced and arranged by Norman Whitfield. 


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Like a sound you hear
That lingers in your ear
You can't forget
From sunrise to sunset

It's all in the air
You hear it everywhere
No matter what you do
It's gonna get a hold on you

California soul
California soul
They say the sun
Comes up every morning

And if you listen carefully
The winds that ride
On the high tide
Whistle a melody

So the people started to sing
And that's how the
Surf gave birth untold to
California soul

California soul
When you hear the beat
You wanna pat your feet
And you've gotta move cause

It's really such a groove
Puts a brand new kind of
Thinking in your mind
And you can't go wrong

'Cause you're happy all day long
California soul
California soul
They had the melody and the beat

But it still didn't seem complete
Until they saw two lovers kissing
They knew just what was missing
So happy they were

Rocking and reeling
Because they added
That loving feeling
To California soul

California soul
California soul
Now if they move you
Will it move you

It can groove, you, baby
California soul
California soul, yeah
California soul

Satisfaction, darling

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Marlena Shaw

Marlena Shaw (born Marlina Burgess, September 22, 1942, New Rochelle, New York, United States) is an American singer. Shaw began her singing career in the 1960s and is still singing today. Her music has often been sampled in hip hop music, and used in television commercials. more »

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Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

10 facts about this song

Song Composition
"California Soul" was composed by the legendary songwriting duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who were signed to Motown Records. Their portfolio includes other famous songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need To Get By".
Original Performance
Even though multiple artists have covered "California Soul", it was first recorded by American soul singer Marvin Gaye in 1968 but it wasn't released as a single.
Edwin Starr Version
Edwin Starr, famous for his Motown hit "War", also released a version of "California Soul" in 1968. The song appeared on his Soul Master album and showcased Starr's unique blend of funk and soul.
Marlena Shaw Version
Jazz and soul singer Marlena Shaw's rendition of "California Soul" in 1969 on her album The Spice of Life is often considered one of the best versions. It eventually became a big hit in the U.K.
The 5th Dimension Version
The 5th Dimension, a pop vocal group, included their version of "California Soul" in their 1969 album The Age of Aquarius. Their rendition had a more easy-listening feel compared to the previous versions. They were also the first to make it a chart hit, reaching #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Other Covers
Numerous artists have covered "California Soul" demonstrating the crossover appeal of the song. Notable performers include The Mamas and the Papas, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and American rock band Unwritten Law.
Usage in Pop Culture
The tune has been used in various forms of pop culture, including commercials, movie soundtracks, and television series. Marlena Shaw’s version was notably featured in an iconic moment on the TV show Mad Men.
Sampled by Hip-Hop Artists
"California Soul" has been showcased in hip-hop through prominent samples. Rapper LL Cool J sampled the song on his 1997 album Phenomenon for the track “4, 3, 2, 1”. The U.K. Drum and Bass act Lincoln used the song for their '97 track "California".
Modern-Day Covers
Most recently, the song was covered by DJ and music producer Diplo, and was performed by singers Cam and Tyler, The Creator at the 60th Grammy Awards in 2018.
Iconic Lyric
"California Soul" has an iconic lyric that has sung across generations: "Like a sound you hear that lingers in your ear, but you can't forget from sundown to sunset." It symbolizes the enduring quality of the song that has persistently appealed to a broad range of audiences and artists.

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