Down in Louisiana, Marva Wright was called the Blues Queen. Fans of her energy-filled performances, both live and recorded, called her a lot of other things, too, like "Marvalous Marva." The "bluesiana" numbers she favored were a strong showcase for her dynamic, gospel-rooted voice. One listen would be enough to convince any newcomer of her strengths, which was surprising in light of the fact that the vocalist was a late bloomer who didn't turn professional until 1987, when she was creeping up on 40. Even then, she only began singing as a way to support her family with a second job. Bourbon Street in the Big Easy led to more than she had dreamed, ultimately landing her gigs in Europe and across the world, with stops in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Brazil. Her appearances in the U.S. included Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, as well as Texas, California, Vermont, Colorado, and Florida.
Although she made a career out of music late in life, Wright actually began to sing much earlier, when she was nine years old. Like many artists, her first public singing efforts were heard in church, with her mother as her accompanist. Top honors in a school-sponsored singing competition followed. Later in life, she credited her mother, a piano player and singer in a gospel quartet, as one of her main influences. Mahalia Jackson, the esteemed gospel singer, was an early friend of the family. Early in 1989 during a live set at Tipitina's in New Orleans, Wright made her first recording, "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean." She made her debut on national television in 1991 when her hometown was the setting for a special that revolved around the Super Bowl. Heartbreakin' Woman, Wright's first full-length release, appeared later that year and garnered honors from the Louisiana Music Critics Association as Blues Album of the Year. The Times-Picayune placed it among the year's Top Ten albums in the city.
Wright's 1993 album Born with the Blues was originally released in France, then three years later the major-label imprint Virgin picked it up for the rest of the world. A 2006 U.K. reissue on Shout! retitled the album Do Right Woman. Her 2007 effort, After the Levees Broke, addressed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina -- which destroyed her house and all her belongings -- by repurposing songs like Willie Nelson's "Crazy," Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," and Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is." She also sang backup for such artists as Allen Toussaint, Glen Campbell, and Joe Cocker, and the long list of others Wright performed with includes Harry Connick, Jr., Bobby McFerrin, Aaron Neville, Fats Domino, Lou Rawls, and Marcia Ball. In May and June of 2009 Marva Wright suffered a pair of strokes from which she never fully recovered, and on March 23, 2010, she passed away a few days after her 62nd birthday at her eldest daughter's home in New Orleans. ~ Linda Seida