Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Teena Marie 1956 - 2010

Teena Marie: Lady T - Cover (1980)
Teena Marie: Lady T - Cover (1980) Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie Teena Marie: Wild and Peaceful (1979) Teena Marie: Irons In The Fire (1980) Teena Marie: It Must Be Magic (1981) Teena Marie: Starchild (1984) Teena Marie: Emerald City (1986) Teena Marie: Passion Play (1994) Teena Marie: La Dona (2006) Teena Marie: Sapphire (2008) Teena Marie: Congo Square (2009)

Born March 05 1956 in Santa Monica, California - Marie Christine Brockert - Teena Marie (nicknamed Lady T and the Ivory Queen Of Soul), released 13 studio albums. Her many hits include 'I'm a Sucker for Your Love', 'Lovergirl', 'Fire and Desire', 'Ooo La La La', 'Square Biz', 'Portuguese Love', 'Irons In The Fire', 'I Need Your Lovin', 'Behind The Groove' and 'Congo Square' - to name but few...

Teena Marie grew up in west Los Angeles in a neighbourhood that was nicknamed "Venice Harlem" because of its heavy black population. She signed to Motown (Gordy) in 1976 (aged 19) and was one of their most successful white artists. It was at Motown that she met her mentor, Rick James, who wrote and produced for her debut album, 'Wild and Peaceful' ('79). As the cover to her debut album, or subsequent single, did not contain a picture of the artist - many programmers at black radio stations assumed, by her rich pitch and perfect tones, that she was a black artist. When her next album, 'Lady T' ('80) was released, the R&B world was surprised to find out this female artist who sang THE most realistic R&B lyrics was in fact white. But by that time black R&B fans, who now loved Marie's style of music, really didn't care - she was a soul singer whose love of black music was both apparent and consistent.

Marie was doing most of her own writing and producing by album number three, her personal favourite album, 'Irons in the Fire' was released in 1980 and spawned the major hit 'I Need Your Lovin'. Her next album, 'It Must Be Magic' (included another huge tune 'Square Biz'). The 'It Must Be Magic' album was to be her last Motown release, it was this album which was to embroil the artist in a legal battle with the mighty label in 1982. Marie won this land-mark case and was immediately released from the rest of her contract with Motown. it was this case which courts would go on to call "The Brockert Initiative", which states, a label cannot keep an artist under contract without putting out an album by him or her. A ruling which has helped many established artists break their contracts with labels.

Upon signing for Epic Records in 1983 Marie would record the concept album 'Robbery' in this year, this would contain the outstanding track 'Fix It'. While her sixth album 'Starchild' ('84) would prove to be her biggest selling album and would produce the huge hit 'Lovergirl'. This crossover track proved a success in both R&B and, for the first time, pop charts - and was proof of the artists increasing popularity.

More Epic albums would follow: 'Emerald City' ('86), 'Naked to the World' ('88) - containing smash hit 'Ooh La La La', and her last Epic Records release would be 'Ivory in 1990. Epic would go on to drop the singer in the same year, despite the first two singles 'Here's Looking at You' and 'If I Were a Bell' doing decent chart business, Marie and her label mutually agreed to part.

1994, saw the artist release 'Passion Play' on her own Sarat label. Lacking the backing/money from a major label, the album was well received but wasn't to perform sales wise. It was at this point Marie took some personal time, dropping out of the recording spotlight to raise daughter Alia Rose (who was later to adopt the stage name "Rose Le Beau"). When Marie started work on her fated 'Black Rain' album, she found it hard to secure a deal with a major label. Reluctant to release on her own label due to the sales of 'Passion Play', the 'Black Rain' album was pulled. A few tracks from the album did find their way to her fans via promos the artist had made, other 'Black Rain' material would make appearances on later work.

After a lengthy hiatus, 2004 saw Marie sign to Cash Money Records and release 'La Doña', this featured the likes of Gerald LeVert, Rick James, and MC Lyte. Penultimate 2006 album 'Sapphire', would reunite her with Motown icon/one of Marie's personal heroes - Smokey Robinson. It was Robinson's writing style and vocal delivery which was to have a huge impression on a young Teena Marie when she was signed to Motown. This album was also released through Cash Money Records, but Marie was to leave the label soon after its release.

2009 would see Marie switch to the iconic Stax label with her last album release 'Congo Square'. Marie spoke at length to B&S' Editor, Lee Tyler, about this fulfilling project and the great memories making this album invoked. "I wanted to do songs that reflected the things that I loved when I was growing up. Every single song on the record is dedicated to someone, or some musical giant that I loved. 'The Pressure' is dedicated to Rick James; 'Can't Last a Day' is dedicated to the Gamble & Huff sound - the Philly International sound'. Then 'Baby I Love You' and 'Ear Candy' are dedicated to Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield - with memories of riding down Crenshaw in LA in jeeps and bumping to music on the 808. While 'Miss Coretta' is, of course, dedicated to Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Dr. Martin Luther King."

Grammy nominated R&B legend Teena Marie was found at her Los Angeles home on December 26 2110 by her daughter Alia Rose. It appears that the artist died of natural causes, according to her manager, Mike Gardner. Her cause of death was not immediately known but Marie's publicist, Lynn Jeter, told CNN that Marie had suffered a grand mal seizure a month ago.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to Teena Marie's family in this time of great sorrow. Another all time great whose flame shone so bright and was extinguished so early.

Teena Maria is survived by daughter Alia Rose.

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