Teena Marie (born Mary Christine Brockert on March 5, 1956) is an American Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter/producer. Marie, nicknamed "Lady T", is a protegé of late funk legend Rick James, and is notable as one of the few successful caucasian performers of R&B, or blue-eyed soul. She sings R&B with big, robust vocals, and is proficient on rhythm guitar. She also has written, produced, sung and arranged virtually all of her songs since her 1980 release Irons in the Fire. She has quoted this as being her favorite album. She has a daughter named Alia Rose.
Tina, as she was nicknamed in her early days, was born in Santa Monica
but grew up in Oakwood
, a neighborhood in West Los Angeles that was nicknamed "Venice Harlem" because of its heavy black population. She attended Venice High School
where she joined the Summer Dance Production and also had a role in the school's production of "The Music Man". The singer/songwriter/producer, who had changed her name to Teena, was just seventeen, trying to get a deal at Motown when she met her mentor and paramour-to-be, Rick James
, who ended up doing all of the writing and producing for her debut album of 1979, Wild and Peaceful
. That LP, which boasted her hit duet with James, "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love
," didn't show Marie's picture -- due to this action many radio programmers assumed she was African-American. This proved to be not true when her picture later emerged on the next album cover.
After It Must Be Magic (which included the major hit "Square Biz") she left Motown Records, and a nasty legal battle began. Teena got out of her contract with Motown, and the case ended up with the courts passing what is known as "The Teena Marie Law" (formally called The Brockert Initiative) -- which states that a label cannot keep an artist under contract without putting out an album by him or her.
After signing with Motown Records
in 1976 as a backup singer, Smokey Robinson
devotee Teena hooked up with James
for her first album titled Wild and Peaceful
, released in 1979. Legend has had it that thanks to James' refusal to work with Diana Ross (because he wasn't allowed to pursue her entire album) that he began working with Teena. Teena Marie found her first successes with the songs "I'm A Sucker For Your Love" and "Deja Vu (I've Been Here Before)."
After James' initial guidance, Teena Marie opened the 1980s by producing two hit albums. Lady T, co-produced by Richard Rudolph (Minnie Riperton's husband and creative partner), featured the hit R&B single "Behind the Groove" (#21 R&B) and "Too Many Colors," which featured Rudolph and Riperton's 7-year-old daughter, Maya Rudolph. Its follow-up, Irons in the Fire, contained her first pop hit, "I Need Your Lovin'"(#9 R&B, #37 Pop) and "Young Love"(#41 R&B). In 1981, she released her best-selling album on Motown, the gold It Must Be Magic. It yielded the hit songs, "Square Biz" written by Teena Marie and Allen McGrier, "Portuguese Love", a song in tribute to her Portuguese ancestry, and the title track. That same year, she also appeared on James' hugely successful album, Street Songs, where they scored a huge hit with their duet, "Fire And Desire."
Success, however, did not mean Teena Marie was satisfied professionally or was stable financially. Upon discovering she had been underpaid royalties for the four albums she recorded for Motown, Teena Marie decided to leave the label and later sued it for having restricted her artistic control. A law was passed as a result, The Brockert Initiative, popularly known as "The Teena Marie Law," which set a precedent for artists seeking control of their careers by limiting the length of recording contracts.
After leaving in 1982, she signed with Epic Records in 1983 and released the concept album Robbery, which featured the hit "Fix It" (#21 R&B), as well as "Shadow Boxing" and "Casanova Brown." The latter was allegedly about her real-life romance with mentor Rick James. In 1984, Teena Marie released her biggest-selling album, Starchild. It yielded the singles "Lovergirl" and "Out On A Limb". "Lovergirl" became Teena Marie's highest peaking single to date on pop charts, peaking at #4, while peaking at #9 on the R&B charts. "Out On A Limb" was not as successful as "Lovergirl" on the R&B Charts, peaking only at #56. Also in 1985, "14k" (R&B #87) was featured on the soundtrack of the film Goonies.
In 1986, Teena Marie released a rock and roll concept album titled Emerald City. It wasn't as successful as her predecessors and in 1988 she returned to her R&B and funk roots releasing the critically-acclaimed album, Naked to the World. That album contained the hit "Ooo La La La", which reached the top of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, and remains her only #1 single on that chart to date.
Teena Marie released Ivory in the fall of 1990. Despite the success of the first two singles, "Here's Looking at You" (#11 R&B) and "If I Were a Bell" (#8 R&B), Epic Records was not totally pleased with sales of the album. So Teena and Epic Records mutually agreed to go their separate ways. In the fall of 1994, Teena released Passion Play, on her own independent label, and subsequently devoted most of her time to raise her daughter, Alia Rose
During the 1990s, Teena's classic R&B, soul and funk records were either sampled by hip-hop artists or covered by R&B divas. Teena Marie herself is seen as something of a pioneer in helping to bring hip-hop to the mainstream by becoming one of the first and only artists of her time to rap on one of her singles--the aforementioned "Square Biz". In the rap portion of that song, she mentions some of her inspirations: Sarah Vaughn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, "just to name a few," as she says. In 1996, The Fugees paid tribute to her by sampling the chorus of her 1988 hit "Ooo La La La" for their own hit, "Fu-Gee-La."
After a 14-year sabbatical from the national spotlight, Teena Marie returned to her musical career by signing with the "Classics" imprint of the successful hip-hop label Cash Money Records
. She released her comeback album, La Dona
, in 2004. It became a gold success (and the highest charting album of her career, peaking at #6 on the Billboard 200
chart) on the basis of the Al Green
-sampled "Still In Love" (#23 R&B, #70 Pop) and a duet with the late Gerald Levert
, "A Rose By Any Other Name". Teena Marie was nominated for a 2005 Grammy Award
for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance
for "Still In Love". Teena quickly followed this success with the release of Sapphire
in 2006. While sales weren't as great this time around (the album peaked at #24 on the Pop Chart), the release did give Teena Marie yet another R&B Top 40 hit, "Ooh Wee" (#32); it also reunited her (on "God Has Created" and "Cruise Control") with Smokey Robinson, the early Motown mentor whose style she had emulated on early hits such as "Young Love." During the late 1990's, she made appearances (as herself) on the TV sitcoms, The Steve Harvey Show
and The Parkers
Teena has recently decided to part ways with Cash Money records. She has a new album called "Congo Square" due for release early in 2009. She has described this as "personal and spiritual" and indicated that it will be more jazz-influenced than most of her previous work.
On September 9, 2008 Teena was honored with an Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
On September 19, 2008 Teena performed in concert at BB King's restaurant in NYC. Teena took this time to play a couple of finished tracks from her upcoming album "Congo Square" in which she had gotten great feedback from the crowd.
- 1979: Wild and Peaceful (Gordy) - US #94, R&B 18
- 1980: Lady T (Motown) - US #45, R&B #18
- 1980: Irons In The Fire (Motown) - US #38, R&B #9
- 1981: It Must Be Magic (Motown) - US #23, R&B #2
- 1983: Robbery (Epic) - US #119, R&B #13
- 1984: Starchild (Epic) - US #31, R&B #9
- 1986: Emerald City (Epic) - US #81, R&B #20
- 1988: Naked To The World (Epic) - US #65, R&B #15
- 1990: Ivory (Epic) - US #132, R&B #27
- 1994: Passion Play (Sarai)
- 2004: La Dona (Cash Money Classics) - US #6, R&B #3
- 2006: Sapphire (Cash Money) - US #24, R&B #3
- 2009: Congo Square (TBA)
- 1979: "Don't Look Back" - R&B #91
- 1979: "I'm A Sucker For Your Love" - UK #43, R&B #8
- 1980: "Behind The Groove" - UK #6, R&B #21
- 1980: "Can It Be Love" - R&B #57
- 1980: "I Need Your Lovin'" - US #37, UK # 28, R&B #9
- 1980: "Young Love" -#41 R&B
- 1981: "It Must Be Magic" - R&B #30
- 1981: "Square Biz" - US #50, R&B #3
- 1982: "Portuguese Love" - R&B #54
- 1983: "Fix It" - R&B #21
- 1983: "Midnight Magnet" - R&B #36
- 1984: "Lovergirl" - UK #76, US #4, R&B #9
- 1985: "14k" - R&B #87
- 1985: "Jammin'" - US #81, R&B #45
- 1985: "Out On A Limb" - R&B #56
- 1986: "Lips To Find You" - R&B #28
- 1986: "Love Me Down Easy" - R&B #76
- 1988: "Ooo La La La" - US #85, UK #74 R&B #1
- 1988: "Work It" - R&B #10
- 1990: "Since Day One" - UK #69
- 1990: "Here's Looking At You" - R&B #11
- 1990: "If I Were A Bell" - R&B #8
- 1991: "Just Us Two" - R&B #42
- 1998: "Baby, Do U Feel Me"
- 2004: "A Rose By Any Other Name" (with Gerald Levert) - US #97, R&B #53
- 2004: "Still In Love" - US #70, R&B #23
- 2006: "Ooh Wee" - R&B #32
Covers, samples, and collaborations
- In 1992, British pop act 'Curiosity' (formerly 'Curiosity Killed The Cat) released 3 different versions on 1 CD single of "I Need Your Lovin'". The executive producer for the project is Simon Cowell. It failed to chart.
- Rapper Eve released the CD "Scorpion" in 2001. Teena was guest vocalist on the penultimate track 'Life Is So Hard'.
- Teena was a guest vocalist on Club DJ Danny Tenaglia's 1998 album "Tourism" and co-wrote the albums first track 'Baby, Do You Feel Me?'
- On Ludacris's 2004 release Red Light District, the rapper samples Marie's song "Portuguese Love" for his song "Child Of The Night".
- In 1996, The Fugees sampled Marie's "Ooo La La La" for their song "Fu-Gee-La"
- "Behind The Groove" has been sampled on album tracks from Coko from SWV ("I Ain't Feelin' You") and LSG (Levert Sweat Gill). ("You Got Me")
- "Square Biz" has been sampled on the tracks "Firm Biz" by rap supergroup The Firm and "Love U So" by Mase.
- Ne-Yo recently sampled "Now That I Have You" on the track he produced for R&B singer Megan Rochell "Floating".
- Young Love was sampled in Lil' Romeo's "Still Be There"
- The song "Crip Hop" by Snoop Dogg samples Square Biz.
- Rapper Missy Elliot samples lyrics from Square Biz in Ciara's 1, 2 step
- Singer Syleena Johnson samples "Young Love" for her song "Time".
- Teena & Underground Artist Gooch recorded "Late at Night" (A very rare track)
- Teena's 1998 CD Black Rain was never released, however a few of the tracks have popped up on La Dona & Sapphire, the Black Rain album also contained beautiful duets with Rick James, "Pretty Tony". Only a few fans have the beautiful track "Underneath the Covers".
- Sheena Easton covered "I Need Your Lovin" on her Disco album "Fabulous".