Recording Artist Teena Marie, 54, Makes Her Transition on December 26, 2010Columnists, Kim's Kronicles — By Buddy Sampson on December 28, 2010 at 7:33 am
Recording Artist Teena Marie, 54, Makes Her Transition on December 26, 2010
By Kim Webster
The unmistakable voice projecting rhythms and rhymes, high notes, low notes and a myriad in between belonged to Teena Marie, affectionately known as Lady Tee. Born on March 2, 1956, Mary Christine Brockert was the fourth child of Thomas and Mary Ann Brockert. Her singing debut was in church singing the “Banana Boat Song” at the age of 2. Credited as Tina Marie Brockert, she tap danced on an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. During her years at Venice High School, Teena Marie continued to develop her vocal style, joined the Summer Dance Production, and had a role in “The Music Man.” This was the beginning of a musical legacy that would make Teena Marie a legend.
In 1976, Teena Marie signed with Motown and worked with several producers before meeting Rick James. Rick saw Teena’s potential, ultimately producing her 1979 debut album “Wild and Peaceful” scoring her first top ten R&B hit, “I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love” and the spiritual “De’ Ja’ Vu (I’ve Been Here Before).” Teena Marie made her national debut on Soul Train singing “I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love,” with Rick James. Neither the cover or album sleeve displayed her picture and many thought she was a Black artist. Her second album “Lady T” showed a classic portrait of her face, but her nationality did not matter to the Black community who embraced her and her music. Richard Rudolph (husband of the late singer/songwriter Minnie Riperton) worked on production of the 1980 album “Lady T” and co-wrote the hit “Behind The Groove.” Most of the writing on this album was done solely by Teena Marie priming her for the writing, production and arranging on her third album “Irons in The Fire” and scoring a top 40 hit “I Need Your Lovin’.” Also in 1980 she recorded the classic romantic “Fire and Desire” with Rick James on his hit album “Street Songs.”
Teena Marie’s first gold album “It Must be Magic” included the hit “Square Biz” which paid tribute to some of her influences: Sarah Vaughn, Bach, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni. It also yielded the sensual “Portuguese Love” and the upbeat title track “It Must Be Magic.” This would be her last album with Motown and mark the beginning of a lawsuit with the company resulting in “The Brockert Initiative.” The initiative made it illegal for a company to have an artist under contract and not release new material for the artist, resulting in the artist signing and releasing material with another label. This helped many artists get released from their contracts. Despite the lawsuit, her and Motown founder Berry Gordy remained amiable and she credited him on understanding her musically.
After leaving Motown she signed with Epic Records releasing the album “Robbery” including the songs “Fix It,” “Shadow Boxing,” “Dear Lover,” and “Cassanova Brown.” The 1984 “Starchild” album produced the #4 US Pop Chart hit “Lovergirl,” the dedication to Marvin Gaye “My Dear Mr Gaye” and the ballad “Out on a Limb” featured on the “Goonies” movie soundtrack. After the release of the rock influenced album “Emerald City” she recorded a single “Lead Me On” for the soundtrack of the movie “Top Gun.” Teena Marie scored her first Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks with the song “Ooo La La La,” from the 1988 album “Naked to the World.” Her last release for Epic was “Ivory” with the hit singles “If I Were a Bell” and “Here’s Looking at You.” In 1994 she released the very passionate “Passion Play” on her independent label Sarai. Her rendition of “Hypnotize” is truly hypnotic.
During the 90’s, she made television appearances on The Steve Harvey Show and The Parkers. But most of her time was devoted to her daughter Alia Rose, born on Christmas Day. Alia Rose records under the name Rose LeBeau and has been featured on Teena Marie’s last three albums “La Dona, ” “Sapphire,” and “Congo Square.” The 2004 Cash Money Classics label “La Dona” album was certified gold and is the highest charting album of Teena Marie’s career scoring #6 on the Billboard 200 chart. She was also nominated for a 2005 Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Still in Love.” Another classic was a duet with the late Gerald Levert, “A Rose by Any Other Name” and a duet with the late Rick James “I Got You.” Her daughter Alia Rose was featured on “High Yellow Girl” and “Recycle Hate To Love” also with Lady Levi. “Sapphire” was released in 2006 yielding the R&B Top-40 hit “Ooh Wee”/featuring Kurupt and duets with Smokey Robinson on “Cruise Control” and “God Has Created.” Saxophonist Gerald Albright is featured on “Somebody Just Like You,” and Alia Rose is featured on “Resilient (Sapphire).” This album was dedicated to Rick James, take note and read the liner notes written by Teena Marie.
The last album released on the Stax/Concord label by Teena Marie is “Congo Square” named after a place located in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Black slaves were allowed to gather on Sunday to dance and play music. Teena Marie discovered some of her family roots in New Orleans and felt a spiritual connection to the city. The title song “Congo Square” tells a story about musical legends and the slaves who initially gathered there. Rose LeBeau (aka Alia Rose) is featured on “Milk N’ Honey” which sounds smooth as its title. Dedications to Coretta Scott King “Ms Coretta,” President Barack Obama “Black Cool” and Rick James “Pressure” are priceless. Faith Evans joins Teena Marie on the hit “Can’t Last a Day.” “Harlem Blues” is also a nice, mellow track.
On February 14, 2010, this reporter had the pleasure of seeing Teena Marie, The Whispers, and Keith Sweat in concert at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The concert was fantastic. In 2006 Teena Marie wrote the hit “Butta” for The Whispers, which they performed on that night. They were all set to perform in February 2011, when sad news came on December 26, 2010…Teena Marie made her transition. Reports say that her daughter Alia Rose had been checking on her and found her non-responsive in their Pasadena home. Teena Marie had suffered a grand mal seizure a month ago, but was recovering. The coroner said, at this point, death may have been caused by “natural causes.”
Teena Marie was a special spiritual and talented gift to this world. She was a mother who transferred her extraordinary musical gift to her daughter Alia Rose. And to you Teena Marie we are thankful for your talent, and the love that you gave, may your soul rest in eternal peace as your legacy lives forever.