Marva Holiday was an R&B singer best known for the irresistible Northern soul staple “It’s Written All Over My Face.” Born in San Jose, California and raised in South Los Angeles and Compton, California her half-sister Yonnine was the daughter of jazz immortal Charles Mingus, who served as a kind of surrogate father to Holiday as well. As a teen she sang with her local Baptist church choir, and later began composing songs of her own. In 1966, she briefly joined a touring version of Bonnie & the Treasures, the girl group known for their Phil Spector-soundalike cult classic “Home of the Brave,” replacing original member Sherlie Matthews.
Holiday and Matthews nevertheless proved fast friends, and with Matthews’ career as a songwriter blossoming, she occasionally employed Holiday on demo sessions. When GNP Crescendo exec Gene Norman received a copy of their “It’s Written All Over My Face,” he quickly signed Holiday to a solo deal, releasing the single to scant attention in 1967. Following the record’s failure, she joined Black Magic, contributing three songs to their 1968 Atco LP Where Love Is. Holiday’s tenure with the group proved brief and by the fall of 1970, she had relocated to Berkeley, CA and was a music major at Oakland’s Merritt College.
She returned to Los Angeles in 1971 to sign as a staff writer with Motown Records’ publishing arm, Jobete. In two years with the company, only one of Holiday’s songs ever made it to retail: Stacie Johnson’s 1973 single “Woman in My Eyes.” After several years of solo club dates, Holiday effectively retired from performing in 1977, co-founding her own publishing firm Scrunch Music. She later owned and operated her own Oakland-based label, Zipporah, and returned to the live arena as a gospel singer.
As her music career waned, she was still making Holiday raised her children and turned to other vocations. Little to her knowledge she was gaining popularity in Europe during the ‘70s through the “Northern Soul” movement which embraced records by ‘60s soul singers. Holiday’s 1968 single It’s Written All Over My Face became well known in Germany, the UK and other countries where “the scene” is popular.
With “It’s Written All Over My Face” finally winning long-deserved attention via Britain’s Northern soul club circuit, in the summer of 2005 Holiday also made her U.K. debut at the Cleethorpes Mirwood Revue, performing alongside Matthews and singer Jim Gilstrap.
In tribute to summer love songs, Marva digitally released her new version of “To Love Somebody” on Friday, July 31, 2015. The song was originally written and recorded in June 1967 by the Australian rock group The Bee Gees.
“This release marks my effort to bring such songs back,” says Holiday. “Joining me on the song is Joe Chambers, former lead singer, and songwriter of The Chambers Brothers, who recorded the ‘60s rocker ‘Time.’ Joe fronts his own group in Los Angeles, The Joe Chambers Experience. His soulful voice is tailor-made for this song, which some say had been written for Otis Redding.”
In 2005 she relocated to Tempe, Arizona where she continues to work on new material and sometimes sits in with local bands.
Holiday was inspired to cover this track as a new phase in her music career which she calls “Part Two.” She says “It’s difficult for female performers who are middle-aged and older to return to the music business once it’s decided that they’re ‘too old,’” she notes. “I was pushed out of the industry by ageism, but I’m not letting that stop me from coming right back, right now!”
With her music, she wants to inspire older women. Says Holiday. “I will demonstrate that it IS possible to dust off one’s deferred dreams and ‘go for it.’ Age is nothing but a number. Making music, whether mine or that of others, energizes me. I will write and perform as long as there’s an audience.”
Holiday is proving that with this new track. She and Chambers have created a lovely duet in this timeless classic. They bring a beautiful summery feeling with their soulful rendition.
2020 will be seeing more of Marva’s music. An original composition entitled “Reflections” followed by an EP of original material will be released early next year.
Watch below and for more information on Marva Holiday check out her Facebook page.