04 November 2008

November Artist of the Month: Teena Marie

No white artist has sang R&B more convincingly than Teena Marie, whose big, robust vocals are so soulful, that in her early days some listeners wondered if she was a light-skinned African-American. Marie grew up in west Los Angeles in a neighborhood that was nicknamed "Venice Harlem" because of its heavy black population. As a child performer, she appeared on an episode of the then hit TV series "The Beverley Hillbillies". In 1976 she signed with Motown Records as a back up singer and soon met her mentor 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 -- so many programmers at black radio just assumed she was black. When her second album "Lady T" came out, much of the R&B world was shocked to see how fair-skinned she was. But to many of the black R&B fans who were eating her music up, it really didn't matter -- the bottom line was she was a first-rate soul singer whose love of black culture ran deep.

By her third album, 1980's gold "Irons in the Fire" Marie was doing most of her own writing and producing. That album boasted the major hit "I Need Your Lovin'," and Marie went gold again with her next album "It Must Be Magic" (which included the major hit "Square Biz"). "It Must Be Magic" turned out to be her last album for Motown, which she had a nasty legal battle with. Marie got out of her contract with Motown, and the case ended up with the courts passing what is known as "The Teena Marie Law" -- which states that a label cannot keep an artist under contract without putting out an album by him or her.

Switching to Epic in 1983, Marie recorded her fifth album "Robbery" and had a hit with "Fix It." In 1984, Marie recorded her sixth album "Starchild" and had her biggest pop hit ever with "Lovergirl." Though Marie had often soared to the top of the R&B charts, "Lovergirl" marked the first time she'd done so well in the pop market. Ironically, Marie was a white singer who had enjoyed little exposure outside the R&B market prior to "Lovegirl."

Three more Epic albums followed: 1986's "Emerald City" 1987's "Naked to the World" (which contained her smash hit "Ooh La La La"), and 1990's "Ivory". Unfortunately, Marie's popularity had faded considerably by the late '80s, and Epic dropped her. In 1994, the singer released "Passion Play" on her own Sarat label. Ten years later, she signed to Cash Money and released "La Dona" featuring assistance from Gerald LeVert & Rick James. Her most recent album "Sapphire" was released in 2006 and saw Teena return to form with a mix of steamy slow jams and mid tempo grooves.

In this month of thanks, Reunion Radio shows it's appreciation to the one... the only .... LADY T

(Bio elements lifted from allmusic.com)

Lover Girl (1984)

Reunion Radio