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Born: January 21, 1972
Biography: Penning songs that are offbeat in narrative, but literate and emotionally revealing, and performing them in a soulful, idiosyncratic style that reveals both strength and fragility, Cat Power was one of the most acclaimed singer/songwriters to emerge from the 1990s indie rock scene, a one of a kind artist unafraid to reveal her inner self in her music and follow her muse in a variety of different directions.
Cat Power is the stage name of Chan (pronounced "Shawn") Marshall, born Charlyn Marie Marshall in Atlanta, Georgia on January 21, 1972. Marshall's father was a blues musician, but her parents divorced when she was young, and she spent much of her nomadic childhood moving back and forth between her father, her mother, and her grandfather. While Marshall's parents didn't encourage her to play music early on, she wrote her first song when she was in fourth grade, and immersed herself in her stepfather's record collection, dominated by soul and classic rock. When Marshall was 16, she moved in with her father in Atlanta, and by 18 she had dropped out of high school and settled on her own. She fell in with a group of experimental indie rock musicians in Atlanta and began jamming with her new friends, initially for fun but eventually playing with several bands before forming a group called Cat Power. The name came from a trucker's cap emblazoned with "Cat Diesel Power" that Marshall spotted while working at a pizza joint. After streamlining it into a suitable band name, she later took Cat Power as her stage alias, and she began earning a reputation on the Atlanta music scene.
In 1992, Marshall relocated to New York City and initially focused her energies on writing songs, but as she became aware of New York's experimental music community, she was emboldened to put fresh emphasis on performing, and began playing semi-improvised shows around the city. In 1993, Marshall became acquainted with members of the group God Is My Co-Pilot, and with their help, she released the first Cat Power single, "Headlights" b/w "Darling Said Sir." Later the same year, Cat Power opened for Liz Phair in New York, and two of the fans who caught the show were Tim Foljahn of Two Dollar Guitar and his friend Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. Foljahn and Shelley were impressed enough with Marshall that they volunteered to help her make an album, and they backed her on Cat Power's first full-length album, Dear Sir, released by Plain Records in 1995. A second album, Myra Lee, was issued by Shelley's Smells Like Records label in early 1996, featuring unused material from the Dear Sir sessions. Strong reviews and growing interest from the indie music community led to Marshall signing with Matador Records, and her third album, What Would the Community Think, appeared in the fall of 1996. [Read more via AllMusic here]