I was 17...I had just graduated from high school and I felt like the world was mine to discover...and the song that was on my lips..."Square Biz"! Mind you, this was decades before karaoke. My girl friends and I would gather in somebody's house put on the Teena Marie LP (yes LP, for you young folk that stand for Long Play, back when albums were really albums and not CD's) on the record player, grab a hair brush (that was my favorite) or a comb, or anything that you could pretend was a microphone and sing along.....As I got older we moved into the era of "Fire and Desire" and "Portuguese Love"....Tina was true "Ivory Queen of Soul"....and today she is gone.
|Teena Marie and her daughter Alia Rose|
I'm not going to try and go into how she died and all of those things, you'll hear enough of that on the news. I prefer to talk about how a person lived and how they will be remembered. For those of you who are too young to know who she is, here's her bio
"For nearly three decades, pint – sized, soul stirring songstress Teena Marie has undeniably been a force to be reckoned with in the nearly thirty years of her professional performing career. The accomplished singer, songwriter, producer and arranger has managed to consistently capture the hearts and spirits of millions of fans with her music. As we’ve listened to the passionate R&B grooves on her twelve studio albums and equal number of compilations, the love and emotion Teena Marie has expressed flows like the purest waterfall. On Sapphire, Ms. Marie’s second release on Cash Money Classics/Universal Motown, the vocalist shines brighter then ever.
The four times Grammy nominated, Mary Christine Brockert had a strong African-American influence from her godmother. Blessed with the gift of music at a young age, the Santa Monica, California native was raised on Motown music. Singing Harry Belafonte by age two, Ms. Marie’s self-professed “Gift from God” would become fine-tuned as the years progressed.
Signed to her dream label at age 19, Teena Marie’s magic would be further developed under the tutelage of the legendary, Rick James. Her 1979 debut Wild And Peaceful, produced by James, garnered a #8 R&B single with “I’m A Sucker For Your Love.” One year later, her second and third albums, Lady T and Irons in the Fire were released, producing the hit classics “Behind The Groove” and “I Need Your Loving” respectively. By this time, Teena Marie took creative control of producing, writing and arranging her material. In 1981 Ms. Marie released the platinum selling It Must Be Magic, which featured the up-tempo “Square Biz” and slow jam “Portuguese Love.”
In 1982, Motown sued Teena Marie for breach of contract after she informed the label that she no longer wanted to perform; in turn, Ms. Marie filed a countersuit against the legendary company and won. The countersuit resulted in the landmark artists’ rights initiative known as “The Brockert Initiative,” - Ms. Marie’s last name - placing strict limitations on the length of artist/company contracts. This historical entertainment mandate states that no recording company can contractually bind an artist while refusing to release his/her product.
After winning the lawsuit, Teena Marie signed to Epic Records (1983), and went on to record five more albums throughout the late eighties and early nineties, including Starchild and the hit single “Lovergirl” and Naked to the World which features the smash hit “Ooo La La La.” Teena independently released Passion Play on her own Sarai Records in 1994, but it wasn’t until ten years later that she would resurface to again share her voice and talent with the world.
As the sole artist signed to Cash Money Classics, the subsidiary of New Orleans rap entity Cash Money Records, Teena released La Doña in 2004, which yielded the grammy nominated #1 hit “Still In
Love.” Now with her latest effort Sapphire, Teena continues to bridge the gap across genres, cultures and colors.
The sudden passing of Teena Marie’s mentor and friend Rick James in 2005 served as the backdrop to the creation of Sapphire. Their often tumultuous, always fertile relationship served as inspiration once again, for Ms. Marie’s, as she put pen to paper and recalled the indescribable experience of working with such a creative force of nature as Rick James. “I really couldn’t deal with my pain and I think that God intervened. Actually, I felt like Rick was with me writing. Some nights I would just sit up in the bed like he tapped me on the shoulder ‘Get up and write this song.’ It was a blessing that I had that album to write because I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have that creative outlet.” Titled after an unreleased Rick James tune of the same name about the history of African-American women, Teena Marie also recalled that sometimes James referred to her as 'his sapphire.' While the process to create Sapphire was healing, the album is also uplifting, centered in love and layered with romantic, even sexy overtones.
Teena Marie’s creative muse was also stirred by her relationship with her 14-year old daughter Alia Rose who appears throughout Sapphire. Ms. Teena describes their musical relationship comparable to Eddie and Gerald Levert, calling Alia “mini me…When we sing together in harmony you can’t tell us apart. It’s like the whole family thing, there’s something so magical about that. She’s really talented and it’s beautiful to watch this flower bloom.”
“Resilient (Sapphire)” featuring Alia Rose tells a powerful and honest tale. Ms. Marie originally wrote the song in honor of her best friend’s grandmother Demitra, a Holocaust survivor. Coincidentally, Demitra died around the same time as Rick James. Propelled by Demitra’s story and life coupled with the unfortunate advent of Hurricane Katrina, Teena Marie and Alia’s duet was born. “I thought that would be a great
testimony to Demitra to take a piece of what happened because she lived that same kind of life.”
With guest appearances by Smokey Robinson, Kurupt and Gerald Albright, making Sapphire became a family affair for Teena Marie. As a member of first generation Motown, Smokey Robinson was Ms. Marie’s silent mentor and idol before she was even signed to the label. Nicknamed Little Smokey by her teenage peers, Teena Marie studied his writing through song, “his lyrics, love poetry, that’s how I really feel I learned how to write.” Collaborating for the first time on “God Has Created” and “Cruise Control,” the musical chemistry was potent. “Smokey is just so brilliant.”
I just had to sit back, relax, and watch a master do his thing. The music, he just loved it so much because it was so Smokey Robinson influenced. My whole career was so influenced by him that it just fit, it was a perfect fit.”
Being the first R&B artist to rap and sing on her own records, Ms. Marie
has contributed much to the world of hip-hop and, in turn positive hip-hop in it’s purest form influenced her. Kurupt, his wife Gail Gotti and her sister Queen all lend their talents to Sapphire. As she describes it: “They’re like my grown kids.” Intrigued by the rap, sung, spoken word combination, Teena Marie wrote the rhyme Kurupt performs on “Baby Who’s Is It,” while Gail Gotti and Queen do their own thing on “Ladies Choice.”
Forever young, Teena Marie is as focused and passionate as ever: “What I think they [the listener] will feel is the sincerity of the lyrics. The younger people, I think they’ll get to hear what we [Rick James & Teena] were and more of who I am. I’m most proud professionally, of the legacy I've been able to create through my music. I also still get a charge when I see all those faces out there during a live performance. Faces that have looked back at me and touched me the way I hope I've touched them. Believe me that feeling shines as bright as any gem."
Teena, you indeed have left a wonderful legacy, I know that I will always remember you and the memories that I have that will forever be intertwined with your music. Tonight our prayer go out to the family and the millions of fans that she has left behind......I"ll never forget you Teena....
~Be at Peace Teena