For celebrated singer Teena Marie, rhythm and blues music was more than a fad or foray into the infamous blue-eyed soul regime – it was a way of life. Raised in Oakwood, Calif., a predominately Black enclave, the powerhouse singer became acclimated with the vocal acrobatics and emotion that drives R&B music at an early age. Her innate childhood musical abilities flourished into a prosperous career that included songwriting, four Grammy Award nominations and a kindred career with late R&B singer Rick James. And for her legion of fans, the “Ivory Queen of Soul’s” music transcended race.
On Dec. 26, the singer’s daughter Alia Rose found her mom dead at her California home, according to manager Lynn Jeter. In November, Marie suffered a grand mal seizure – which causes dramatic muscle spasms and loss of consciousness – and reportedly faced a similar episode shortly before her death. The family has not released the exact cause of death.
Ironically, Alia Rose, who performs under the name Rose Le Beau, had celebrated her 19th birthday hours before on Christmas Day and on Dec. 24, Marie tweeted, “19 yrs ago today, I was in labor! My heavenly father gave me the most glorious gift I could ever receive. A Baby girl on Christmas!”
Born Mary Christine Brockert in 1956, Marie’s most popular hits included “Portuguese Love,” “Ooo La La La” and “Square Biz,” which have been sampled by popular acts such as The Fugees, Foxy Brown and Dru Hill. Throughout her near 35-year career, Marie sang under several record labels, including Epic, Cash Money Classics and Stax Records.
However, Marie stormed the Black music scene as a fresh faced 19-year-old with Motown Records in 1976. Her debut album, Wild and Peaceful, spawned the hit “I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love” with outspoken crooner Rick James. According to her website, many Wild and Peaceful fans incorrectly assumed Marie was African American until her TV debut on “Soul Train” in 1979.
She went on to release a slew of albums in the following decades, including her sophomore release Lady T, Passion Play (1994), La Dona (2004) and her most recent album, Congo Square (2009).
Washington, D.C.- and Baltimore-area fans last welcomed the doe-eyed musician in August at The Birchmere in Northern Virginia and in 2009 at the African American Heritage Festival, where Marie looked the picture of perfect health.