Monday, December 11

The Legacy of Teena Marie

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I was home working when I saw a message flash on the bottom of my computer screen saying R&B songstress Teena Marie had passed away. I was stunned. The message was very evasive, so I immediately went online to find out more. She had passed away in her sleep the day after Christmas, at the age of 54. It would later be revealed natural causes was the reason.

If you grew up in the ’80s like I did, and loved R&B music, you knew Teena Marie very well. She first burst onto the scene in the late ’70s, having joined the legendary Motown label. I first saw her on “Soul Train” with the “king of funk” himself, Rick James. The two performed the song “I’m Just A Sucka For Your Love.” It immediately became one of my favorites. One of my best friends was a huge fan of Teena Marie, or Lady T. She was so into her, it caught my attention. I was not familiar with any of her solo work, but that would soon change. Not only was I hearing her songs at my friend’s house, but on the radio, and on both “Soul Train” and “American Bandstand.” Pretty soon, I was listening to “I Need Your Lovin,” “Square Biz,” and “Behind The Groove” on a regular basis. One of the favorites of many, a genuine classic, is the 1983’s “Fire and Desire,” which was yet another duet with Rick James.The two possesed an undeniable chemistry when they sang together. She would later call him her “musical soulmate.” They reunited at the 2004 BET Awards to perform the song. It was an unforgettable moment, both in the show and musically. Rick James passed away later that year at the age of 56.

Teena Marie was not very well known within the mainstream media. Her passing received virtually no television coverage, which made me livid. She had her biggest pop hit with 1985’s “Lovergirl,” which was a top 5 song on the billboard charts. Her audience was predominantly African-American. However, probably the most interesting aspect of all is although her voice oozed with soul, she was a petite, white woman. Sadly, there has been criticism aimed at her for being a white female singing soul music, as if she had done something wrong, or stepped out of bounds. I have always thought of music as colorblind, so that frame of mind is ludicrous.

Lady T came to town over a year ago. My sister and I regret not going to see her. We thought we had more time, which was unfortunately not true. However, there is one thing we do not regret- her music having been a part of our lives for so many years.


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