Teena Marie (born Mary Christine Brockert, March 5, 1956 – December 26, 2010). R&B singer & composer, actress.

Teena Marie grew up in a black neighborhood in west Los Angeles, listening to Motown music. Her vocal talent was evident at a very young age. As a child, she became an established singer and actress, even appearing on The Beverly Hillbillies. She became the first white artist signed to Motown, where she became a protogé of Rick James. The two were later involved romantically. James produced her first album, while her second was produced by Richard Rudolph, the husband of singer Minnie Ripperton. Their daughter, comedian Maya Rudolph, became Teena Marie’s god-daughter and sang on the album at the age of seven. After this, Teena Marie wrote, arranged, and produced all of her music. In addition to her soulful voice, she also played guitar, keyboards, and percussion on her albums.

Rick James & Teena Marie in 2004

Teena Marie scored several hits with songs like Behind the Groove, I Need Your Loving, and Fire and Desire, a duet with Rick James. (They later reunited in 2004 to sing it at the BET Awards, shortly before James’ death.) She continued to have chart successes with Square Biz (an early influence on rap and hip-hop), Portuguese Love, You So Heavy, (featuring Stevie Ray Vaughan), the best-selling pop hit Lovergirl, and Ooh La La, which was later redone by the Fugees. After the birth of her daughter, Alia Rose, she took an extended break from recording. She had comeback success, starting in 2004, with the album La Doña, which featured a duet with Gerald Levert. She followed this with the albums Resilient and the jazzy Congo Square, which included duets with her daughter, now performing under the stage name “Rose LeBeau” and hip-hop/soul singer Faith Evans. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005.

Teena Marie posted on Twitter on Christmas day to celebrate the 19th birthday of Alia Rose. She was found dead the next day by her daughter. She had suffered from seizures in the past and reportedly may have suffered one shortly before her death. Her influence on R&B, hip-hop, and rap was large, as seen in artists like Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, and Lauryn Hill,  and she is remembered as “Lady T, the Ivory Queen of Soul”. As she commented in an interview for Essence,

“I’m a Black artist with White skin. At the end of the day you have to sing what’s in your own soul…  I really don’t judge my terms of success by awards but where I sit with God, my friends and my family. That’s way more important.”

Visit the official Teena Marie website at: www.officialteenamarie.com.

[At this time, “officialteenamarie.com” has crashed due to the overwhelming web traffic it has received from fans. An alternate site has been set up and is under construction. It may be reached here: www.ivoryqueenofsoul.com]

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