By Duchess of Hackney

Hackney livin' n lovin'. Sarky frosty knickers always gobby, and perpetually pissed off for good reasons. Wind up merchant extraordinaire, but a nice old fashioned unusually unusual gal... Writing lots of wrongs.

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Soul Queen Teena Marie, dead at age 54


Teena Marie during her hey days

With great sadness I read this morning of Teena Marie’s passing. I’m writing this as a long time fan of her music and someone who was lucky enough to have met her twice, in Los Angeles and watched her perform live, a handful of times.

While music crosses, generations, genders, race, language and creed, you had to be there to feel the way I do about soul, R&B and disco music of the 70’s, 80’s and even early 90’s. After then it all went south and we have to endure a string of interchangeable look-a-likes and sounda likes, who produce soulless over hyped crap.

Yesterday,  26 December, Teena Marie was found unconscious by her daughter Alia Rose, at her home in Pasadena California and died shortly afterwards..

Teena Marie and daughter Alia Rose at a BET award show in 2006

She was born Mary Christine Brockerton on 5th March 1956 in Santa Monica and raised in nearby Venice in a predominantly black neighbourhood. Soon after leaving high school she signed with Motown Records and it was there she met the incredible but deeply flawed greatest funk maestro, Rick James (and do I have a personal story about him to tell). He took her under his wings, mentored her, collaborated musically with her and became her lover in a very tumultuous relationship.

Although she signed with Motown in 1976, they never released any of her music until she hooked up with Rick James a few years later and even then, the cover of her album didn’t include her picture. Instead the cover featured fluffy clouds. Motown’s reason, was that they didn’t want to put off their R&B audience. While she won over blacks and black radio stations, she never crossover to mainstream pop although the she did have a hit in the pop charts with ‘Lovergirl’.

As a regular club goer and house ‘party animal’ in the early 80’s, it was her tunes like Square Biz, Portuguese Love, Behind The Groove we danced to. Her slower tunes like Dear Lover and my favorite Fire and Desire (with Rick James) is what we ‘grinded’ with our dance partners to. In some cases it was like watching people simulate sex fully clothed. Good times!

Her departure from Motown in 1982 was followed by a legal battle when she sued the record label. They later settled,  resulting in the Brockert Initiative, named for her, which curbs a record company’s power to keep musicians under contract while refusing to release their music. Not only a singer, but an accomplished song writer and musician she was nominated for several grammy’s, but never won any.

Her profile somewhat dimmed during the early 90’s when she took time out to raise her daughter Alia Rose who herself is now persuing a music career under the stage name Rose Lebeau. She released a comeback  album in 2004 and toured. She was expecting to be appearing in Atlanta next week.

I first met her some time in 2002 in a parking lot at a shopping mall in Glendale California. After living in Los Angeles for 15 years, I wasn’t in the habit of approaching celebrities, I was surrounded by them and saw them on a daily basis but I had to speak with Teena Marie and she was very accommodating. We talked for about 15 minutes about everything from Rick James to London and of course I gushed about her music and left with an autograph, which I still treasure. Again I was to bump into her, this time in Old Town Pasadena and I was thrilled that she remembered me.

In an interview with Bellaonline she said the following about Rick James: 
We had our falling outs, but we were like brothers and sisters. We were family. We really loved each other. I never bought into the stuff he was doing and I wasn’t one of those that didn’t say anything. Sometimes we banged heads. He was my family. I was like his little alter ego. He tried to get away, but we loved each other very much. I miss him.

Although reason of death has not been confirmed, she’s believed to have suffered a Grand Mal seizure.

54 is too young an age to die, R I P Mary Christine Brockert and thanks for the music and great memories.

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