“I have a white mother that gave birth to me and I have black mother that nurtured me as well, who was always there by my side and explained a lot things to me that I didn’t understand as a young girl. I’m just very true to who I am and the music that I love — I think people can feel that sincerity. I think they know that it’s not contrived; this is the way that I live. I think God wanted me to bring people together through music and you shouldn’t have to be a certain color to sing a certain type of music.”
—Teena Marie from “Teena Marie: Ultimate Soul Diva”
Mary Christine Brockert was born in March of 1956 in Santa Monica, California.
When I first heard Teena Marie’s voice, I assumed she was black. The tone, the depth of feeling, the embodiment of soulfulness in that voice, spoke to me, like she knew my story. It wasn’t by accident that Motown’s Berry Gordy left photos of Teena off her debut Motown album. It was an ironic move as in the 50’s many black artists’ vocals were used while white artists provided the more acceptable face of soul and blues. I came across a track by blues singer Howlin’ Dog that was covered by the Rolling Stones, I will blog about that later on. But Teena -or Lady T as she became known- was accepted 100% into the hearts and minds of the music buying and concert going black (and non-black) public. Her colour didn’t matter: she was the real deal.
As well as her stunning vocals, Teena also played electric guitar, piano and the congos.
‘Oh la la la la’ is one of my favourites, a seductive, soothing lullaby at its best. (Naked to the World, 1988). Train spotters amongst you will note that this riff was borrowed and made new by Lauren Hill as Fu-Gee-La. Another favourite is the lyrical ‘Portuguese Love’, then there is the stompin’ ‘I Need Your Lovin’, the tender ‘You Make Love Like Springtime’ and ‘Starchild’ with that typically 80’s sound.
Teena Marie, I can’t remember when I first heard your voice, it was just always there, awakening deep enduring emotions.
May you sleep, dance and sing in your very own ‘Sunny Skies’.
Celebrity tributes: http://gu.com/p/2m454/tf
Listen to Sunny Skies
© Suzy Rigg