Can we please have a moment of silence . . . for the "Ivory Queen of Soul" Teena Marie.
The songbird reportedly passed away in her sleep on Dec. 26. According to the singer's manager Mike Gardner, Marie's daughter Alia Rose apparently discovered her mother's body at her home in Pasadena, Calif. She was 54. While there is no official announcement on cause of death, Marie's publicist, Lynn Jeter, said the singer did suffered a grand mal seizure last month. "Luckily, someone was there," recalls Jeter. "The ambulance took her to the hospital, and on the way she had another seizure." Marie was still recovering from the incident as she was preparing for an upcoming show in Atlanta before her untimely death.
Teena Marie was born Marie Christine Brockert in Santa Monica, Calif., and started performing at the age of eight as a tap dancer and appeared on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. She signed with Motown Records in 1976 at the age of 19, becoming one of a few white acts to record on a black-owned record label. While at Motown, Marie began a professional and romantic relationship with the late singer-songwriter Rick James. Their musical partnership would later produced the timeless Quiet Storm classic "Fire & Desire."
Marie released four well-recieved albums at Motown -- Wild and Peaceful (1979), Lady T (1980), Irons in the Fire (1980), and It Must Be Magic (1981). Undoubtedly, It Must Be Magic was Marie's most commercially successful album. The gold-selling LP featured the chart-topping hits "Square Biz," "Portuguese Love" and "It Must be Magic."
"She had so much soul -- the only thing white about her was her skin," said Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. via a statement released Monday. "She was a powerhouse performer, writer, producer and arranger. Teena Marie will always be a part of the Motown family. We will all miss her."
In 1982, Marie was embroiled in a legal battle with Motown after she asked for a release from the label. She was victorious in her landmark lawsuit that declared it illegal for record labels to keep artists under contract while refusing to release their work. The suit was named the "Brockert Initiative" (aka the TM Law). "It wasn't something I set out to do," she told the Los Angeles Times in 2004. "I just wanted to get away from Motown and have a good life. But it helped a lot of people, like Luther Vandross and the Mary Jane Girls and a lot of different artists, to be able to get out of their contracts."
In 1983, Marie signed with Epic Records and spread her creative wings by writing and producing her own music. She enjoyed her biggest success on her 1984 album Starchild with the song "Lovergirl," which crossover to the pop charts. On her 1988 LP Naked to the World, she secured her first-ever No. 1 R&B single, "Ooo La La La."
After leaving Epic Records, Marie recorded album on various labels, including Cash Money Classics and Stax Records (via Concord Music Group). Her last studio album, Congo Square (June 2009), was inspired by the music of New Orleans' French Quarter district.
"The enduring influence of Teena's inspirational, trailblazing career, could only have been made possible through her brilliant songwriting, showmanship and high-energy passion which laid the ground work for the future generations of R&B, hip-hop, and soul," eulogized Concord Music Group's chief label officer Gene Rumsey. "We feel extremely fortunate to have worked with a visionary who changed music in indelible ways. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends and of course, millions of fans around the world."
Teena Marie's voice and music influenced countless of female artists including Faith Evans, Leela James, Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige. "[Teena Marie] inspired me vocally as a child," Blige tweeted. "Her songs I sang in the mirror with a hair brush. I'm so hurt. Rest in peace Teena [Marie]. My Love for u is forever." Meanwhile, Leela James added on her twitter: "[Teena Marie] was a true musician, that regardless of color, had soul and could sang, not sing like some of these broads out now faking the funk."