Home > Teena Marie, 'Lovegirl' singer, who died at 54, pushed the boundaries of R&B by being herself

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Teena Marie, 'Lovegirl' singer, who died at 54, pushed the boundaries of R&B by being herself

Teena Marie was hardly the first white girl to sing black music, but few if any got themselves accepted as heartily as California girl who took "Ooo La La La" to the top of the R&B charts in 1988.

Mary Christine Brockert, who died at her home the morning after Christmas, didn't always have an easy time of it. She fought with her record companies, sometimes over her insistence she control her music. She was hospitalized for six months after a severe fall on stage in 1988.

She was just 54 when she died, reportedly after suffering a seizure. But Lady T left an army of fans, black and white, who saw both her and her music as simply honest.

Not to mention danceable.

Her only real hit on pop radio was the 1984 "Lovergirl," which reached No. 4. On black radio, she had six top-10 hits over a dozen years, also including "I'm A Sucker For Your Love," "I Need Your Lovin'," "Square Biz," "Work It" and "If I Were a Bell."

She was known as a protégé of Rick James and she definitely had a funky side, expressed in her songs and in the way she played rhythm guitar, keyboards and percussion.

But a lot of her music was pure rhythm and blues.

"That's what I grew up on," she said in a 1985 interview. "I listened to black radio and black musicians. That's what spoke to me and when I started making my own music, that's what came out."

She was an occasional child actress and singer, playing a small role on the TV hit "The Beverly Hillbillies." Unlike many child performers, though, she said the lesson she learned was that "you can't let someone else make your decisions for you."

She was signed by Motown in 1976, but the label didn't release any of her music until she joined forces with James three years later.

The cover of her first album didn't include her picture, on the theory that the R&B audience might not buy her record, even if they liked it, if they knew she was white.

Marie said in 1985 that she appreciated the deep irony of that move - since the whole rock 'n' roll business was notorious in its early years for not picturing black artists on their own albums because white listeners might be put off.

Her "coming out" was performing "I'm a Sucker for Your Love" with James on "Soul Train," and it turned out that black audiences and black radio programmers, even if they were surprised this singer was white, had little problem with it.

"I've always felt my music came from a lot of places, including classical composers," she said. "As for R&B, it's been around so long at this point that it's America's music. It's the world's music."

Her profile dropped through the 1990s, though she did some recording and acting. Her 2004 comeback album "La Dona" was certified gold and earned her a Grammy nomination, and "Congo Square," released in 2009, reached the top 20.

She also recorded in later years with artists like Smokey Robinson and Faith Evans, reinforcing everything she said 25 years earlier about R&B and its sister sounds.

That was simply the musical place she lived.

 Source: NYDAILYNEWS.com

 



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Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/2010/12/27/2010-12-27_teena_marie_lovegirl_singer_who_died_at_54_pushed_the_boundaries_of_rb_by_being_.html#ixzz19JvM9pBA

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