... she died on December 26, 2010. She was 54 years-old.
Born Mary Christine Brockert, Teena Marie was a protege' of R&B and "funk" legend Rick James, and was one of the most successful white performers of R&B. 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 said was her favorite album.
She had a daughter, Alia Rose, who, as of 2009, sang under the name Rose Le Beau. Marie died on Sunday, December 26, 2010, at home.
A four-time Grammy nominee, Marie had a strong African-American influence from her godmother. Blessed with the gift of music at a young age, the Santa Monica, California, native grew up in the historically African-American enclave of Oakwood, California in westside Los Angeles. Raised on Motown music and singing Harry Belafonte music by age 2, Marie’s self-professed “Gift from God” would become fine-tuned as the years progressed.
As a child, she had 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.
While attending Venice High School, she joined the Summer Dance Production, and also had a role in the school's production of The Music Man.
Marie signed with Motown Records in 1976, having gained an introduction to staff producer Hal Davis (best known for his work with Brenda Holloway and the Jackson 5, and then auditioned, with her band, for label boss Berry Gordy. She recorded unreleased material with a number of different producers, including Kerner and Wise, but was then spotted by Rick James, and guitarist Paul C Saenz, who became her mentors.
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Her debut album release, Wild and Peaceful, was originally targeted as a project to be produced by James for Diana Ross, but James preferred to work with Marie. It scored Marie's first top-ten R&B hit, "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love" which was a duet with James.
Neither the album sleeve nor other packaging showed a picture of Marie, apparently on the theory that black audiences might be reluctant to buy an album by a white artist. In fact, many radio programmers wrongly assumed Marie was African American during the earliest months of her career. This myth was disproved when Marie performed her debut hit with James on Soul Train in 1979. In 1980, her second album, Lady T, sported a picture of her on the cover.
Lady T included production from Richard Rudolph (husband of R&B singer Minnie Riperton, and father of Maya Rudolph from Saturday Night Live.) 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 Marie.
Rudolph also co-composed the single "Behind The Groove," which reached number 21 on the black singles chart and the top ten on the U.K. singles chart. The song was also included on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on the Fever 105 station. 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, Marie released her third LP, Irons in The Fire, in which she handled all writing and production herself, including the horn and rhythm arrangements of her band and all backing vocals. The single "I Need Your Lovin'" brought Teena her first top 40 hit. That same year, Teena Marie appeared on James' hugely successful album, Street Songs, with the steamy duet "Fire and Desire." 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.
Marie continued her success with Motown in 1981, with the release of It Must Be Magic, her first gold record, which included her then biggest hit on R&B, "Square Biz." Other notable tracks include "Portuguese Love," the title track "It Must be Magic," and "Yes Indeed," which Marie has cited as a personal favorite.
In 1982, Marie got into a heated legal battle with Motown records over her contract and disagreements about releasing her new material. The scuffle resulted in "The Brockert Initiative," which makes 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.
After leaving Motown in 1982, Marie signed with Epic Records in 1983 and released the concept album Robbery, which featured the hit "Fix It", as well as "Shadow Boxing" and "Casanova Brown." The latter was one of a number of tracks 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's death in August 2004. In 1984, Marie released her biggest-selling album, Starchild. It yielded the hit single "Lovergirl in March 1985.
In 1986, 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," for the soundtrack of the box office hit film, Top Gun.
In 1988, 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 remains her only #1 single on that chart to date. During her 1988 Naked to the World concert tour, she suffered a fall and was hospitalized for six months.