Teena Marie Explained

Teena Marie
Background:solo_singer
Alias:Lady Tee, Vanilla Child, Ivory Queen Of Soul
Birth Name:Mary Christine Brockert
Birth Date:March 5, 1956
Birth Place:Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Death Place:Pasadena, California, U.S.
Instrument:Vocals, keyboard instruments, electric guitar, congas
Genre:R&B, disco, soul, funk, jazz
Occupation:Singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger
Years Active:1964–2010
Label:Motown, Epic/CBS, Cash Money Records/Universal, Stax/Concord
Associated Acts:Rick James, Ozone, Q.T hush, Bernadette Cooper, Eve

Mary Christine Brockert (March 5, 1956 – December 26, 2010), better known by her stage name Teena Marie, was an American singer, songwriter and producer. She was known as Tina[1] before taking the stage name Teena Marie, then she later acquired the nickname of Lady Tee (sometimes spelled as Lady T), given to her by collaborator and friend, Rick James.

She was known for her distinctive soulful vocals which initially caused many listeners to believe she was African-American. Her success in R&B and soul and loyalty to these genres would earn her the title Ivory Queen of Soul. She played rhythm guitar, keyboards and congas. She also wrote, produced, sang, and arranged virtually all of her songs since her 1980 release, Irons in the Fire, which she later said was her favorite album.

Biography

Early life (1956–1978)

Mary Christine, or Teena as she was called, was the fourth of five children born in Santa Monica, California to construction worker Thomas Leslie Brockert and his wife, home renovator Mary Anne. She spent her early childhood in Mission Hills. Her ethnic heritage was Portuguese, Italian, Irish and Native American. In 2005, while visiting Louisiana, she had discovered that her paternal ancestors once lived in New Orleans.[2] [3] Brockert took to singing naturally, performing Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song by age two. She also developed a fondness for singing the songs of Motown, and her self-professed “gift from God” would become fine-tuned as the years progressed.

Brockert's parents began sending her out on auditions when she was eight years old, which netted an acting role on The Beverly Hillbillies, credited as Tina Marie Brockert. She also sang at the wedding of actor Jerry Lewis' son when she was 10 years old. Reared in a Roman Catholic household, she learned to play the piano under the tutelage of two nuns and later taught herself the guitar, bass, and congas. She would go on to form a semi-professional R&B band with her younger brother Anthony and their cousin.

In the early 1970s, after the family moved to Venice, Los Angeles, Brockert spent her adolescent years in the historically black Venice enclave of Oakwood, nicknamed "Venice Harlem". There, she would acquire a strong spiritual influence from neighborhood matriarch Berthalynn Jackson, an African American who would become her godmother.[3] [4]

While attending Venice High School, Brockert joined the Summer Dance Production, and also had the female lead in the school's production of The Music Man.[5] She also fronted a local Venice rock band "Truvair" in 1974-1975; the band's members were some of her fellow high school students.

After graduating, Brockert juggled auditioning for various record companies with studying English Literature at Santa Monica College. She credited her love of reading with helping her to write the lyrics she's known for.

Motown era (1979–1982)

In 1976, Brockert (as the lead singer member of a band she assembled which included long-time friend Mickey Boyce) gained an introduction to Motown Records staff producer Hal Davis (best known for his work with Brenda Holloway and the Jackson 5). This led to an audition for a film about orphans being developed by Motown. The project was shelved, but label boss Berry Gordy decided to sign her as a solo act, impressed with her singing but having no need for a musical group. She recorded unreleased material with a number of different producers over the next few years, before being spotted by labelmate Rick James who was immediately impressed with her sound. (Some of the earlier unreleased material has since been made available on the compilation album First Class Love: Rare Tee.) At the time, James, already established as a successful recording artist, was on tap to produce for Diana Ross but changed his mind and decided to work with Brockert. The result was debut album release, Wild and Peaceful. The album was, at one point, due to be credited to "Teena Tryson", but ultimately was put out under "Teena Marie", the name by which she would be known throughout her career. It scored Teena Marie her first top-ten R&B hit, "I'm a Sucker for Your Love" (#8 Black Singles Chart), a duet with James. Neither the album nor its packaging had her picture on it, and many radio programmers assumed she was African-American during the earliest months of her career. This myth was disproved when she performed her debut hit with James on Soul Train in 1979, becoming the show's first white female guest (she would appear on the show eight more times, more than any other white act).

In 1980, her second album, Lady T, would have her portrait on the cover upon its release. It's also noted for having production from Richard Rudolph (husband of R&B singer Minnie Riperton, who died a year earlier). Teena Marie had asked Berry Gordy to contact Rudolph and secure his input as Rick James was unavailable and she felt unprepared to be sole producer of her own material. Rudolph intended for the song he penned, "Now That I Have You", to be sung by his wife, but it was later given to Teena Marie.[6] Rudolph also co-composed the single "Behind The Groove", which reached number 21 on the black singles chart and reaching #6 on the U.K. singles chart in 1980. The song would also be included on the soundtrack of on the Fever 105 soundtrack.[7] Another notable track, "Too Many Colors," featured Rudolph and Riperton's then 7-year-old daughter, Maya Rudolph, who became Teena Marie's god-daughter.

Also in 1980, Teena Marie released her third LP, Irons in the Fire, for which she handled all writing and production herself, including the horn and rhythm arrangements of her band and all backing vocals, all considered rare at the time for a female artist. The single "I Need Your Lovin'" (#37 Pop, #9 Black Singles) brought Teena Marie her first top 40 hit. This single also peaked at #28 in the UK chart. That same year, Teena Marie appeared on James' hugely successful album, Street Songs, with the duet "Fire and Desire". In an interview, Teena Marie said she had a fever at the time yet managed to record her vocals in one take. After the session, she was driven to a hospital. The two would perform the single at the 2004 BET Awards, which would be their last TV appearance with one another as Rick James died later that year.[8]

Teena Marie continued her success with Motown in 1981, with the release of It Must Be Magic (#2 Black Albums Chart), her first gold record, which included her then biggest hit on R&B, "Square Biz" (#3 Black Singles). Other notable tracks include "Portuguese Love" (featuring a brief, uncredited cameo by James, #54 Black Singles), the title track "It Must be Magic" (#30 Black Singles), and album only track "Yes Indeed", which she cited as a personal favorite.

In 1982, Teena Marie got into a heated legal battle with Motown Records over her contract and disagreements about releasing her new material.[9] The lawsuit resulted in "The Brockert Initiative", which made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material for that artist. In such instances, artists are able to sign and release with another label instead of being held back by an unsupportive one. Teena Marie commented on the law in an LA Times article, saying, "It wasn't something I set out to do. I just wanted to get away from Motown and have a good life. But it helped a lot of people, like Luther Vandross and the Mary Jane Girls, and a lot of different artists, to be able to get out of their contracts."[10] She left Motown as the label's most successful white solo act.

Epic era (1983–1990)

Contacted by Epic Records in the Fall of 1982 after expressing dismay over her Motown contract, Teena Marie signed a worldwide deal with the Columbia Records subsidiary that also allowed her to establish her own publishing company, Midnight Magnet. Epic released the concept album Robbery, which featured the hit "Fix It" (#21 R&B), as well as "Shadow Boxing" and "Casanova Brown." The latter was one of a number of tracks Teena Marie would write over the years about her real-life romance with one-time mentor Rick James. The relationship had ended by that point, but the two would continue a sometimes tempestuous friendship, until James' death in August 2004. In 1984, Teena Marie released her biggest-selling album, Starchild. It yielded her biggest hit "Lovergirl", which peaked at #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart[11] in March 1985. It also peaked at #9 on the R&B chart. The label also released the moderate R&B hit "Out on a Limb", which peaked at #56 on the R&B chart, but didn't break the Hot 100. "14k" was featured on the soundtrack of the film Goonies (1985) but was not a hit (only making the U.S. R&B charts at #87).

In 1986, Teena Marie released a rock music-influenced concept album titled Emerald City. It was controversial with her established fan base and not as successful as its predecessors. She also recorded another rock-influenced track, "Lead Me On", co-produced by Giorgio Moroder, for the soundtrack of the box office hit film, Top Gun (1986). In 1988, however, she returned to her R&B and funk roots, releasing the critically acclaimed album Naked to the World. That album contained the hit "Ooo La La La", which reached the top of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and was her only #1 single on that chart. During her 1988 Naked to the World concert tour, she suffered a fall and was hospitalized for six months.

Teena Marie released Ivory in the fall of 1990; it scored no pop hits, but it did experience two R&B hits: "Here's Looking at You" (#11 R&B) and "If I Were a Bell" (#8 R&B).

Hiatus, Passion Play and Black Rain (1991–2003)

During the 1990s, Teena Marie's classic R&B, soul, and funk records were either sampled by hip-hop artists or covered by R&B divas. Teena Marie herself is regarded as something of a pioneer in helping to bring hip-hop to the mainstream by becoming one of the first artists of her time to rap one of her singles—the aforementioned "Square Biz". In the hip-hop portion of that song, she mentions some of her inspirations: Sarah Vaughn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, and Nikki Giovanni. In 1996, the Fugees paid tribute to her by interpolating the chorus of her 1988 hit, "Ooo, La, La, La", into its own "Fu-Gee-La".

In the fall of 1994, Teena Marie released Passion Play on her independent label, Sarai Records.[12] Lacking the backing of a major label, this album sold less well than her earlier work, but was well received by fans.

Subsequently, Teena Marie devoted most of her time to raising her daughter Alia Rose[13] (who has since adopted the stage name "Rose Le Beau" and is pursuing her own singing career). During the late 1990s, Teena Marie made appearances (as herself) on the TV sitcoms, The Steve Harvey Show and The Parkers. She also began work on a new album, titled Black Rain. She was unable to secure a major label deal for this, and did not want to put it out on her own Sarai label in light of the modest sales of Passion Play. However, a version pressed for promotional purposes was widely bootlegged among fans. This contained the tracks, "The Mackin' Game", "I'll Take the Pressure", "Baby, I'm Your Fiend", "My Body's Hungry", "Ecstasy", "I'm on Fire", "Watcha Got 4 Me", "Black Rain", "1999", "Butterflies", "Spanish Harlem", "Blackberry Playa", "The Perfect Feeling", and "Rainbow Outro". Some of these tracks resurfaced on the later albums: La Doña, Sapphire, and Congo Square; in some cases (e.g. "The Mackin Game") in significantly reworked versions.

Her "Square Biz" was remade as "Hollywood Square Biz" on the hit TV game show Hollywood Squares from 2002-2004.

La Doña to Congo Square (2004–2010)

After a 14-year sabbatical from the national spotlight, Teena Marie returned to her musical career by signing with the Classics sub-label of the successful hip-hop label, Cash Money Records. She released her comeback album, La Doña, in 2004, and follow up Sapphire, in 2006. La Doña became a gold-certified success (and the highest-charting album of her career, peaking at #6 on the Billboard 200 chart) on the basis of the Al Green-sampled "I'm Still In Love" (#23 R&B, #70 Pop) and a duet with the late Gerald Levert, "A Rose by Any Other Name". Teena Marie was nominated for a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Still in Love". Teena Marie quickly followed this success with the release of Sapphire in 2006. While sales were not as strong this time (the album peaked at #24 on the Pop Chart), the release did give her yet another R&B Top-40 hit, "Ooh Wee" (#32); it also reunited her (on "God Has Created" and "Cruise Control") with Smokey Robinson, the early Motown mentor whose style she had emulated on early hits such as "Young Love". Teena Marie parted ways with Ca$h Money records after the release of Sapphire.

On September 19, 2008, Teena Marie performed in concert at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City. Teena took this time to play a couple of finished tracks from her upcoming album, Congo Square, and she received a positive response from the crowd. Congo Square was released on June 9, 2009 on Stax/Concord Records. She has described the album as "personal and spiritual" and indicated that it was more jazz-influenced than most of her previous work. "Can't Last a Day", a duet with Faith Evans, leaked to the Internet in March 2009. Teena Marie says of Evans, "It was after I had recorded the song ("Can't Last a Day") I got the idea to put Faith on it. I’ve always loved Faith and her vocal style. She reminds me of me. Her correlation with Biggie — having a career with him and without him — reminds me of me and Rick. I feel like she’s a younger me. Of the younger ladies, she’s the one I love most.”[14]

Meanwhile, with regard to her early-life inspirations for Congo Square, in January 2010 Teena Marie told Lee Tyler, editor of Blues & Soul magazine: "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 i.e. Roland TR-808 drum machine. While 'Miss Coretta' is, of course, dedicated to Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Martin Luther King."[15]

Sales-wise, the album proved another success, reaching the Top 20 on Billboard's Top 200, and giving Teena Marie yet another Top 10 R&B chart entry. In 2010, Teena Marie continued to be a headliner on the Las Vegas Strip, appearing regularly at the Las Vegas Hilton and other venues until just before her death.

At the time of her death, Teena Marie had completed her 14th CD and was also working on jazz and inspirational CDs. In addition, she was in the midst of her writing her memoir.

Death

Around 2004, Teena Marie lay sleeping in a hotel room when a large picture frame fell and struck her in the head. The blow caused a serious concussion that would result in momentary seizures for the rest of her life. On the afternoon of December 26, 2010, Teena Marie was found unresponsive by her daughter Alia Rose at her home in Pasadena, California.[16] On December 30, 2010, an autopsy was performed by the Los Angeles County coroner, who found no signs of apparent trauma or discernible cause of death and concluded she had died from natural causes.[17] She had suffered a grand mal epileptic seizure just one month before her death.

A memorial service was held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on January 10, 2011. Among the luminaries who attended were Smokey Robinson, LisaRaye, Sinbad, Tichina Arnold, Stevie Wonder, Shanice Wilson and Tata Vega.

Personal life

Teena Marie, who never wed, gave birth to a daughter in 1991, named Alia Rose. As of 2009, Alia Rose sang under the name Rose LeBeau.[18]

Throughout her career, Teena Marie had lived in Inglewood, California and Encino before settling in Pasadena in the mid-1980s.

In addition to Maya Rudolph, Teena Marie was godmother to Marvin Gaye's daughter Nona Gaye. She also cared for Rick James' son, Rick Jr. and family friend Jeremiah O'Neal. Lenny Kravitz posted a video in which he said that Teena Marie had taken him into her home and helped him when he was struggling early in his career.[19] Teena's hobbies included archery, drawing, and writing poetry.

Discography

See main article: Teena Marie discography.

Studio albums

External links

Notes and References

  1. The Gondolier, Venice High School yearbook, 1974
  2. At home with Teena Marie and daughter, Alia Rose. Jet, Oct 30, 2006
  3. Web site: Teena Marie Dead at 54. www.afro.com. 2010-12-28. 2010-12-27. Kristin Gray.
  4. Web site: Biography. Adobe Flash. ivoryqueenofsoul.com. 2008-05-12. 2010-12-27.
  5. Venice High School yearbook Gondolier, 1974
  6. [Minnie Riperton#Posthumous recordings]
  7. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006SM8W/$%7B0%7D Amazon.com: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Vol. 6 - Fever 105: Rene & Angela, Whispers: Music
  8. http://www.vibe.com/news/online_exclusives/2004/06/2004_bet_awards_wrap/ News | VIBE
  9. http://www.michaelbaisden.com/features/bside/teena-marie Teena Marie - MICHAELBAISDEN.COM
  10. News: Teena Marie remains true to R&B. Los Angeles Times. December 29, 2004.
  11. http://books.google.com/books?id=5yMEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&lr=#v=onepage&q&f=false Billboard - Google Books
  12. http://books.google.com/books?id=dCwEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=teena+marie+founded+sarai+records&source=bl&ots=yf02FLovMx&sig=xbsz4SJ-hd9TYg9VCcVMjg3O6iI&hl=en&ei=AnEYTYzMKcKqlAe7m6iuDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false Vibe - Google Books
  13. http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=teena+marie+Alia+Rose YouTube - teena marie Alia Rose
  14. http://blog.singersroom.com/celebs/index.php/2009/03/24/faith-evans-gets-soulful-with-teena-marie/ Faith Evans gets Soulful with Teena Marie!
  15. http://www.bluesandsoul.com/feature/489/the_return_of_lady_tee/ Teena Marie interview by Lee Tyler, 'Blues & Soul' January 2010
  16. http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-teena-marie-20101227,0,2805459.story Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2010
  17. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Music/12/28/teena.marie.dead Notice of Teena Marie's death at CNN.com
  18. News: Emily Cary. Teena Marie gets 'Up Close and Personal' at Birchmere. The Washington Examiner. August 27, 2009. 33. 2010-12-27.
  19. http://www.soundspike.com/news/article/1288-teena_marie_news_artists_deliver_teena_marie_remembrances.html SoundSpike, December 27, 2010