From New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Marva Wright, the powerhouse New Orleans blues and gospel singer who left her job as a school secretary to sing around the world, died Tuesday of complications from a pair of strokes she suffered in 2009. She was 62.
Ms. Wright died at the eastern New Orleans home of her eldest daughter, where she had been living since her health declined last year.
Enormously popular among fellow musicians, Ms. Wright moved easily between gospel spirituals and bawdy blues romps. In her late-blooming career, she released albums on local and international record labels, and performed across Europe, in Russia and Brazil, and at blues festivals around the United States. She drew large crowds at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, and staged an annual Christmas concert at well know New Orleans restaurant Tipitina’s.
“She truly was and will remain the Blues Queen of New Orleans,” said Adam Shipley, Ms. Wright’s manager. “She was one of the highlights to ever grace the stage at Tipitina’s.”
As a child, she listened to her mother sing and play piano at Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church in New Orleans. Her mother had attended McDonogh 24 Elementary School with future gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, and they remained friends.
“I met Mahalia when I was 9 years old,” Ms. Wright recalled several years ago, “but I never realized she was that popular until I got older.”
In 1990, while singing at Bourbon Street Gospel and Blues, she met “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley. He became an ardent fan; up until his death, Bradley introduced Ms. Wright for her Jazz Fest performances.
She released her debut album, “Heartbreakin’ Woman,” in 1990 on Tipitina’s Records. A French label issued 1993’s “Born With the Blues.” She covered a U2 song as the title track of 1995’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Her tenth album, 2001’s “Marva,” was a typically eclectic affair, featuring such guests as Bo Dollis and Terrance Simien. She covered Bob Dylan’s “Serve Somebody” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”
“To me, those are gospel,” Ms. Wright said at the time. “It’s new wave gospel, but it’s gospel.”
Of “Marva,” she surmised, “You can’t say it’s a gospel CD, you can’t say it’s a blues CD, you can’t say it’s an R&B CD, you can’t say it’s a country CD. You can say it’s all of it.”
In the 1990s, her audience at the Uptown club Muddy Waters occasionally included a daughter of then-Vice President Al Gore, and Gore’s wife, Tipper. That led to an invitation to perform at the White House.
Hurricane Katrina inundated her home in eastern New Orleans with nearly 8 feet of water. She and her second husband, Antoine “Tony” Plessy, moved to Bel Air, Md., near Plessy’s adult children. Ms. Wright was not impressed with the culinary sensibilities of her home-in-exile.
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