The world is a lot less soulful today. Legendary R&B singer Teena Marie (or Lady T, as she was sometimes known) has passed away at the young age of 54.
Back in the 70’s there was a big racial divide in the music world and Teena was known in part for her success at bridging the R&B gap. Teena was the first white woman to be signed to Motown Records and was able to work with uber-producer (and executive producer of one of my favorite films of all time, The Last Dragon), Berry Gordy
Much of her success can be linked to the relationship she created with her mentor, Rick James. The two worked closely together and even had an on-again off-again romance.
Something she may not be as well-known for but that also made a huge impact on the music industry was her lawsuit against her former record label. She sued for release from her Motown contract and the resulting “Brockert Initiative” (her legal name was Mary Christine Brockert) made it illegal for a company to hold an artist to their contract while refusing to release the artist’s music.
One of the things that made Teena so special, besides her voice and overall musicality, is that she was able to prove music should be colorblind. It wasn’t until after her songs had surged up the “Black Singles” charts that she was invited on to the Soul Train TV show that people got to see her for the first time. Only then did they realize she was white. For those of you too young to remember Soul Train, go do a quick internet search, you are in for a treat.
Many of her fellow musicians have Tweeted about their love for Teena Marie and her lasting musical influence.
Rocker Lenny Kravitz posted a video message declaring her “underrated” and explaining how Marie nurtured him in his younger years and mentored him as an artist.
While her death came way too soon, she left us with fourteen albums of incredible music that will last forever. Personally, I’ll be teasing my hair, putting on my sequins halter top and jamming out to “Lovergirl” for the remainder of the day.