Legendary James Brown's protégée Martha High teams up with mighty Japanese Osaka Monaural to pay homage to "JB's Funky Divas" in her new album "Tribute to My Soul Sisters".
Original Funky Diva Martha High has been an integral part of James Brown's life and career for more than 30 years. She was his backing vocalist, hair stylist, payroll master and his always loyal and reliable confidant.
The idea for this project was hatched back in 2014, when Martha was visiting producer DJ Pari, head honcho of the Soulpower organization and manager of soul legends like The Impressions, Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney. While reminiscing about tours with her fellow James Brown veterans, Martha felt that a tribute to the great soul sisters of the JB Revue, better known as "James Brown's Original Funky Divas," was very much needed.
"I looked up to these ladies of soul," says Martha, "Given the opportunity and the pleasure to perform their songs, is my way of saying: thank you, you're not forgotten. To record the music of the Funky Divas, would mean a lot to Mr. Brown. He always wanted the world to know he had powerful women on stage that could hold his crowd while he was off the stage. They were just as powerful and funky as he was."
Without further ado, following DJ Pari's advice, Martha partnered up in Tokyo with one of the hottest names of the new funk renaissance: Japan's Osaka Monaurail. Deeply influenced by the work of James Brown, Bobby Byrd, Curtis Mayfield and with nine albums under their belt, Osaka Monaurail have been leading the international funk scene for more than two decades, appearing at festivals such as Montreal Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and Womad's, as well as recording and touring with funk legends like Marva Whitney and Fred Wesley.
This unique collaboration gives new life to 13 soulful pearls, masterfully interpreted as only an Original Funky Diva can do. To name a few: "Think (About It)", made famous by the female preacher Lyn Collins, "Mama's Got a Bag of Her Own", Anna King's answer to Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "This Is My Story", of which Martha recorded the original version with The Jewels, and the soul classic "Answer to Mother Popcorn" by Vicki Anderson.
Born in Victoria, Virginia, and discovered by rock 'n roll pioneer Bo Diddley, Martha started her career with the soulful, legendary doo-wop group The Four Jewels, with whom she scored the national hit "Opportunity" in 1964. Soon, The Jewels caught the attention of James Brown and joined the James Brown Revue in 1966. The Godfather of Soul recorded and released several songs featuring The Jewels until the group disbanded. Nevertheless, Martha stayed with James Brown and continued to work with him as his personal vocalist for 32 years. She was with him at the Boston Garden during the iconic 1968 gig after Martin Luther King's assassination. She was by his side when he performed at renowned "Rumble in The Jungle" event in Zaire. Mr. Brown produced several of Martha's singles on his own People label such as "Georgy Girl", "Try Me" and "Summertime." Meanwhile Martha launched her solo career in 1979 with the self-titled debut LP for Salsoul Records. Since, she has released five albums under her name and, being one of the "hardest working women in show business", she became one of the leading singers of saxophonist Maceo Parker's legendary funky music machine, working with him for 16 years.
Throughout her career Martha has shared stages worldwide with iconic artists like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Michael Jackson and George Clinton. Martha has been carrying the torch of soul music for her whole life, like a true soul sister. Now, with this new effort, she is keeping the music of the Funky Divas going, and we are sure that the Godfather of Soul and her faithful audience would appreciate it.
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