Monday, December 27, 2010
Mary Christine Brockert, better known as R&B/funk diva Teena Marie, passed away yesterday at her California home. She was 54. Her 1979 debut album Wild and Peaceful, purposefully did not include a photo of the white singer, and as a result, many listeners (my mom included) and DJs believed the singer to be black.
Teena Marie, a protegee of the late Rick James and "Motown's first white act"* is not only one of the greatest funk vocalists, but a multi-instrumentalist (she played guitar, congas and keys) and a producer and arranger who was also responsible for what is known as "The Brockert Initiative," a landmark music law that made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing any new material. The law, which arose from a legal battle Marie was fighting with Berry Gordy and Motown, helped other Motown acts like Mary Jane Girls and Luther Vandross leave the company and seek out supportive labels to work with.
After an almost 15 year hiatus, the creator of amazing funk love anthems like "Lovergirl," "Fire and Desire" (one of her duets with James), "Ooo La La La" (which was of course sampled by the Fugees) and the gorgeous multi-layered "Portuguese Love" reemerged with the Grammy nominated La Doña in 2004, and continued to release music up until her passing, with last year's Congo Square, her 13th album. A true diva, innovator, and soul filled legend, she will be missed, but somewhere in Heaven, she and Rick are having a ball.
* not technically true, as Rare Earth preceded her and the little known rock act The Rustix, who provided no hits for the label preceded them