Remembering With Love – Teena Marie (1956-2010)

Soulful R&B songstress Teena Marie has died, as reported on December 26.  She was discovered unresponsive in her house by Alia Rose, her daughter, and had apparently died of natural causes.   The Los Angeles coroner said that her body showed no signs of trauma and no illegal drugs were found in the Pasadena home where she passed away.

She was a So Cal girl who was on my list of songwriter heroes that I would like to meet.  Her real name was Mary Christine Brockert and was born in Santa Monica on March 5, 1956.  Ever since the internet became a source of information, her age has changed a few times, but 1956 is what I always have believed to be the right one.   This songwriter and singer of hits like “Lovergirl”, “Square Biz”, and “Portuguese Love” was bestowed the nicknames “Lady T” and “Ivory Queen of Soul” and stayed true to her musical stylings, no matter what trends came along.  It was common knowledge that she was Rick James’ protégée, but her identity definitely stood on its own.  Like another one of my female song heroines, Patrice Rushen, Teena displayed a diverse range of talent.  She was a multi-instrumentalist and flourished in a recording studio.  I admired the fact that by the time she recorded her third album, Irons In the Fire (1980), she decided to write, arrange, produce and sing all her material from that time forward.

She took a short hiatus about 1994 to devote more time to raising her daughter.  I hadn’t listened to her material for a little while, just the previous songs through the eighties, which was the decade I bought most of her albums, but I truly enjoyed all of her song catalog.  The last time I saw her was on TV in a tribute to Smokey Robinson.  I taped the show and when Teena appeared on the screen, I didn’t recognize her at first.  She had dyed her hair red and was wearing tortoise shell square biz glasses, and she didn’t look like the lady I knew.  But as soon as she started to sing the Miracles’ hit “Ooo Baby Baby”, her beauty was revealed through her illustrious voice.  She still had that soulful lilt and flow that I always cherished in her music.  By the look on Smokey’s face, he, too, was captivated.

Teena recorded 13 studio albums, and it took a good 25 years for her to crack the top ten with 2004’s La Doña, which ranked at number 6 on Billboard.  “Lovergirl” from 1984 was her highest placing single at number 4, but I was always fond of “Ooo La La La”, which hit number 1, only on the R&B chart.  And to dig down deeper, “Love Me Down Easy” from 1986.  Her biography and other information can be found at her offical site.  I don’t feel the need to write a book report on her life, I just wanted to share my thoughts about the Lady.

Her songs are part of my life’s soundtrack, and they have always made me feel good inside.   She will be missed by all of her fans, of which my own lady and I are two.   Teena Marie was 54.   Another talented artist has left this earth, but she did leave wonderful gifts that her generation can listen to and feel her special warmth.  May she groove on forever more.  Rest in peace and love.

Here is her biggest charting hit –

Dean