Singer Teena Marie dead at 54
Grammy-nominated singer found dead in California home
BY ANDREA WOO, VANCOUVER SUN
Grammy-nominated singer Teena Marie has died, her manager Mike Gardner said Sunday.
She was 54.
Gardner told CNN’s Roland Martin the R&B, soul and funk singer, songwriter and producer — born Marie Christine Brockert — was found dead by her daughter in her California home.
No cause of death has been provided, though Martin noted Marie’s publicist, Lynn Jeter, had told him last month that Marie had suffered a grand mal seizure while watching a movie in her bed.
Marie, a former protégée of Rick James, found fame in the late ’70s after being discovered by James. She is known best for her 1979 duet with James, “I’m a Sucker for Your Love,” and her 1984 hit “Lovergirl.”
It’s been interesting to see the outpouring of love for Teena Marie — especially from friends and others who knew her well — and the subsequent backlash from descriptions of her. She has, for as long as she’s been well-known, been known as a white woman with a powerful, black voice — a description that some people are apparently taking issue with now in the coverage following her death.
Fact: Teena Marie embraced this description. She was one of very few white women to be overwhelmingly embraced by black popular culture at the time. She is the only white singer to be featured by African-American station TV One as part of its “Unsung” music special. At the very beginning of her career, her label hid her race, fearing black audiences might not buy her album — but she came to prove them wrong.
CNN’s Roland Martin spoke with several artists after the fact, and tweeted their responses:
Lionel Richie: “There was Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle and Teena Marie. And you don’t want to go on stage with any of them…. You don’t want 2 mention black & white, but that’s exactly what U thought about. It was an absolute phenomena 2 me.”
Eddie Levert: “In terms of vocals, she was one of the blackest people I know…. There a lot of black people who swore by her and believed in her, as far as her music was concerned.”
Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One: “Teena was a black voice tapped in a white body.”
Teena Marie — Lady T, as she was also known — had appeal that crossed races and musical genres. Her music has been sampled by countless, countless hip-hop acts. Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La?” Yeah, peep “Ooh La La La” above.
Fun fact: She is also the godmother of Saturday Night Live cast member Maya Rudolph.
Rest in peace to a woman whose talents transcended borders to touch R&B, soul, funk, pop and hip-hop.