Just before we went to bed last night, we got the shocking news of the death of Teena Marie. The R&B music star was only 54, and apparently died of a brain seizure, but the cause of her death has not been confirmed.
Famous for being one of the most successful white singers to perform R&B music, Mary Christine Brockert grew up in the African-American enclave of Oakdale, California, and signed with Motown Records in 1976. She was eventually mentored in the business by funk legend, Rick James, releasing her first album in 1979. Notably, there was no photograph of Teena Marie on her first album, her record executives believing that the Black public wouldn't buy an R&B record by a White performer. Her music began to be played on Black radio, and many believed that Marie was African-American. Months after the album's release, Marie performed on the t.v. show, "Soul Train" with Rick James, and the public learned the truth.
Marie's career continued on an upward spiral; she next worked with Richard Rudolph, whose wife, singer Minnie Ripperton, had just died. Marie eventually became godmother to Ripperton's daughter, "Saturday Night Live" alum Maya Rudolph.
Marie scored many hits on the R&B charts, but her most successful mainstream hit was
"Lovergirl", which reached #4 on the pop charts in 1985. Marie is also credited with helping hip-hop into the mainstream by being one of the first performers to rap on one of her singles, the 1981 hit, "Square Biz". At the time of her death, Teena Marie was performing in a series of successful concerts in Las Vegas.