Tuesday, December 28, 2010

R.I.P. Teena Marie

March 5, 1956- December 26, 2010

I certainly don't like writing these posts but unfortunately they have to be written.... It started as just a blurb on Facebook last night...I saw someone write a status update -"R.I.P. Teena Marie" I glazed right by it. Then I did a double take...Huh? What? I asked my friend for details but she didn't have any. Then I went on Twitter and more people were talking about it...When I returned to Facebook...It was spreading like wildfire. I checked all of my" sources" for confirmation, MSN, CNN and TMZ....Nothing! I was cautious...Maybe this was another internet sparked rumor. I hoped it wasn't true....

Then, I turned on my local r& b radio station. (WDAS-FM for those of you who don't live in Philadelphia) and they had the sad news....that it was true....The Ivory Queen of Motown, Teena Marie , had indeed passed away.

"The enduring influence of Teena's inspirational, trailblazing career, could only have been made possible through her brilliant song-writing, showmanship and high energy passion which laid the ground work for the future generations of R&B, hip-hop, and soul," said Concord Music Group chief label officer, Gene Rumsey. Concord's Stax Records released her last album.

"We feel extremely fortunate to have worked with a visionary who changed music in indelible ways. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends and of course, millions of fans around the world."

Teena Marie certainly wasn't the first white person to sing soul music, but she was arguably among the most gifted and respected, and was thoroughly embraced by black audiences, and beyond.

Even before she started her musical career, she had a strong bond with the black community, which she credited to her godmother. She gravitated to soul music and in her youth decided to make it her career.

Teena Marie made her debut on Motown Records back in 1976, becoming one of the very few white acts to break the race barrier( Rock band, Rare Earth, being the other) of the groundbreaking black-owned record label founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy Jr. that had been a haven for black artists like Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, the Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Marvin Gaye.

The cover of her debut album, "Wild and Peaceful," did not feature her image, with Motown apparently fearing black audiences might not buy it if they found out the songstress with the dynamic, gospel-inflected voice was white.

"(Motown founder Berry) Gordy said that is was so soulful that he wanted to give the music an opportunity to stand on its own merit. Instead of my face, they put a seascape, so by the time my second album came out people were like, Lady T is white?" she told Essence.com.

Teena Marie was the protege of the masterful funk wizard Rick James,(Even though she was signed to the label three years before he was) with whom she would have long, turbulent but musically magical relationship.

Teena Marie notched her first hit, "I'm A Sucker for Your Love," with the help of Rick James on that album. But the time her second album was released, her face was known — and on the cover of the record. But there was not a backlash — she would only get more popular on her way to becoming one of R&B's most revered queens. During her tenure with Motown, the singer-songwriter and musician produced passionate love songs and funk jam songs like "Need Your Lovin'," "Behind the Groove."

Teena Marie's voice was the main draw of her music: Pitch-perfect, piercing in its clarity and wrought with emotion, whether it was drawing from the highs of romance or the mournful moments of a love lost. But her songs, most of which she had a hand in writing, were the other major component of her success.

Tunes like "Cassanova Brown" "Portuguese Love" and "Deja Vu (I've Been Here Before)" featured more than typical platitudes on love and life, but complex thoughts with rich lyricism. "Deja vu" was a song about reincarnation.

And "Fire and Desire," a duet withRick James about a former couple musing about their past love, was considered a musical masterpiece and a staple of the romance block on radio stations across the country.

Teena Marie left Motown in 1982 and her split became historic: She sued the label and the legal battle led to a law preventing record labels from holding an artist without releasing any of their music.

She went to Epic in the 1980s and had hits like "Lovergirl" and "Ooo La La La," but her lasting musical legacy would be her Motown years.

Still, she continued to record music and perform. In 2004 and 2006 she put out two well-received albums on the traditional rap label Cash Money Records, "La Dona" and "Sapphire."

Rick James, who had a romantic relationship withTeena Marie and also a long lasting friendship, died in 2004. His death shook her so she said she became addicted to Vicodin, which she had been taking for pain, for about a year.

But Teena Marie said she successfully battled that addiction. In 2008, she talked about her excitement of being honored by the R&B Foundation.

Teena Marie was the mother of a teenage daughter who was also a budding singer; she would sometimes bring her daughter onstage to sing during her shows. In 2009, she celebrated 30 years in the recording industry, and planned for many more.

"All in all, it's been a wonderful, wonderful ride," she told The Associated Press in 2008. "I don't plan on stopping anytime soon."

I wished that she hadn't....She was unique....One like her will never come this way again.

2 comments:

Moanerplicity said...

Unique. Yes, That would be the word for her gift, her talent & her artistry. Trust, I'm not hating on anyone, but the fact that someone like Beyonce has almost 20 Grammys & Teena Marie never won ONE is shocking. It signals that those who judge greatness in music do not even have a clue!


R.I.P. Teena Marie!


One.

LESAPEA MUSINGS said...

What a legend,thank you for sharing this Keith.

Lisa




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