Not even after a full day after Christmas the world was shocked to hear about the death of R&B singer Teena Marie. On December 26, 2010, the self-proclaimed “Ivory Queen of Soul” was found dead in her home of natural causes, while in her sleep. Throughout her years in the music industry, Marie made her mark in the R&B world, penning several of her own ballads and collaborating with other legendary artists of the time. Born in 1956 and a native of Santa Monica, California, Marie was always a fan of soul music, taking inspiration from her godmother, which ran deep into her teen years as she fine-tuned her vocal gift and style. This specific focus would take her to the front door of Motown Records in the late 70’s where she was signed as one of the first White artists to sing with the Black-owned label.
Through her years at Motown, Teena Marie’s gift still shone bright, landing her numerous hits such as “Need Your Lovin”, “Casanova Brown”, and the ultra-famed duet with Rick James on “Fire & Desire”. This continued success of smash hits would prove an attractive trait for her until 1982, when Marie exited the label and jumped aboard with Epic Records, releasing consistent hits with titles “Lovergirl” and “Ooo La La La”. Teena Marie’s astonishing clarity and pitch-perfect tone were a great delight to her listeners, giving her the respected and revered marks among the Black audiences. To Marie, music was more than singing about soul; to her, singing with soul came from a genuine inner soul. From that notion came a plethora of her success and amazing vocal talent, which boosted her credibility in the music industry.
Teena Marie’s relationship with music wasn’t the only dynamic kind in her life. Though often times tumultuous and questionable, her ongoing relationship with music mentor Rick James was one of no secrecy. Despite having the woes and issues which railed on the edge of downright abusiveness, the eyebrow-raising duration of their commitment translated into musical majesty. To most, “Fire & Desire” reigns supreme as the most powerful, passionate duet of all time. Unfortunately, as all things great, Marie and James’ long-time friendship came to an end in 2004 via Rick James’ death. Subsequently, Marie fell into a heavy depression and developed a drug addiction to Vicodin, which she battled for approximately two years. She was able to overcome that addiction and continue life, releasing two respectable albums in the late 2000’s, titled La Dona and Sapphire. Upon her death, she was working on an album titled Conga Square, a “back to basics” album which Marie was excited to release.
Teena Marie will be forever remembered as the “Ivory Queen of Soul” whose breathtaking vocals and exceptional writing skills made her a staple in the R&B/Soul genre. She leaves behind a teenage daughter who is also a singer, and a legacy of hits worthy of Grammy recognition and listening hearts the world over. In 2009, she celebrated 30 years in the music industry, and rightfully so, she was honored by the R&B foundation for her achievements and contributions to music. She will definitely be missed as a mother, as a lover, and an amazing artist; there will truly be only one “Lady T” in the world, and she is Teena Marie.