NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Marsha McWilson is a singer and songwriter from Niagara Falls, known for her impersonation of legendary performer Etta James.
She has even appeared on one of Tyler Perry's TV shows and last year, was named to the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame.
McWilson often sings the blues and gospel music, and the inspiration for her latest record comes from her family's own battles with COVID-19.
"Who would’ve thought this virus would come and tear our lives apart?" she sings.
Marsha is reeling from the pain of losing loved ones — seven people close to her passed away in about three months. Six of them had COVID-19.
"It broke my heart," she said.
Among those she lost: several cousins, her niece Kimberly, and sister Vanessa.
"I’m in disbelief,” said McWilson. “She was my big sister. Someone who was my rock, but almost like my mom."
All of the grief hit Marsha hard. Marsha and several other members of her close family have survived their own bouts with COVID-19. Her husband is still dealing with health effects.
"It kind of gave me a gut punch to say ‘you could be next,’" she said. "But God settled my mind, gave me peace and told me it was their time."
Through it all she turned to her music to help make her heart heal.
"You came and tore my life apart," she said. "But guess what? We’re going to be stronger. We’re going to walk taller and we’re going to treat others like it’s their last day on Earth."
That’s the message behind the song she penned called "Rona Mae Blues" — a collaboration with her son Cameron. "Rona Mae?" — well that’s Marsha’s way of personifying the coronavirus.
"I never would’ve thought, your name Vanessa would be among the millions who sadly departed," she sings.
It’s a song that speaks to the way so many have felt over the past year: down but not out.
"Girl, you don’t get to win this fight!" she sings as the song comes to a close.
You can find her record, "Rona Mae Blues," on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, MarshaMcWilson.com and YouTube.