|Date of Birth
||March 5, 1956
|Place of Birth
||Santa Monica, California
For nearly three decades, pint sized, soul-stirring songstress Teena Marie has been an undeniable force in contemporary pop and R&B. Singer, songwriter, accomplished producer and arranger – she’s captured the hearts and spirits of millions of fans around the world with her versatility and style. Her star-status was reaffirmed with her triumphant return to the limelight after a ten-year hiatus in 2004 with the critically acclaimed and commercial success of La Doña. Now, ready to deliver her 13th album, Sapphire, (not counting numerous compilations), her second Cash Money Classics/Universal Motown Records release serves as more evidence that the passionate vocalist has never been in better form.
The four time-grammy nominated singer (her given name is Mary Christine Brockert) who grew up with a strong African-American influence from her godmother has been blessed with the ‘gift of music’ since early childhood. The Santa Monica, California native still has vivid memories of being raised on a diet of ‘pure’ Motown. Incredibly, she could sing Harry Belafonte by age two – fine-tuning her self-professed “Gift from God” throughout her wondrous career, including the heart wrenching sessions that made up the inspiring Sapphire.
Never afraid to forge personal heartbreak into awe-inspiring music, the sudden passing of Teena Marie’s lifelong mentor and friend Rick James in 2005 served as a touching backdrop for the evocative new album. Their often tumultuous, always fertile relationship served as a catalyst once again, for Ms. Marie, as she put pen to paper and recalled the indescribable experience of working with such a creative force of nature as Rick James. “I really couldn’t deal with my pain and I think that God intervened. Actually, I felt like Rick was with me writing.” Titled after an unreleased Rick James tune of the same name about the history of African-American women, Teena Marie also notes that the effusive Rick James would often refer to her as 'his sapphire.'
Her creative muse was also stirred by her relationship with her 14-year old daughter Alia Rose, who appears throughout Sapphire. Ms. Teena describes their musical relationship with her daughter comparable to Eddie and Gerald Levert, calling Alia ‘mini me’. Says Teena Marie: “When we sing together in harmony you can’t tell us apart. It’s like the whole family thing, there’s something so magical about that.”
With guest appearances by Smokey Robinson, Kurupt and Gerald Albright, the creation of Sapphire became a true family affair. As a member of first generation Motown, Smokey Robinson was Teena’s silent mentor and idol before she was even signed to the label. Collaborating with the legend for the first time on “God Has Created” and “Cruise Control,” the result is potent musical chemistry. “Smokey is just so brilliant. I just had to sit back, relax, and watch a master do his thing.”
Being the first R&B artist to rap and sing on her own records, Teena Marie has contributed much to the world of hip-hop. Kurupt, his wife Gail Gotti and her sister Queen all lend their talents to the new album, with Teena referring to them fondly: “They’re like my grown kids.” Intrigued by the rap-sung-spoken word combination, Teena Marie wrote the rhyme Kurupt performs on “Baby Who’s Is It,” while Gail Gotti and Queen do their own thing on “Ladies Choice.”
Teena Marie’s storied journey to music superstardom blazed a path of musical empowerment admired by artists from all genres. Signed to her dream label – Motown Records - at age 19, her magic would become fully developed under the tutelage of the legendary Rick James. Her 1979 debut Wild And Peaceful, produced by James, garnered a #8 R&B single with “I’m A Sucker For Your Love.” One year later, her second and third albums, Lady T and Irons in the Fire produced the hit classics “Behind The Groove” and “I Need Your Loving” respectively. Ms. Marie also took creative control of her projects by this time, and in 1981, released the platinum selling It Must Be Magic which featured the up-tempo “Square Biz” and slow jam “Portuguese Love.”
But, there would also be bumps in the road for the savvy writer/producer/arranger. In 1982, Motown sued Teena Marie for breach of contract after she informed the label that she no longer wanted to perform; in turn, Ms. Marie filed a countersuit and won. The landmark decision resulted in a monumental artists’ rights initiative known as “The Brockert Initiative,” - placing strict limitations on the length of artist/company contracts.
After winning the lawsuit, Teena Marie signed to Epic Records (1983), and went on to record five more albums throughout the late eighties and early nineties, including Starchild and the hit single “Lovergirl” and Naked to the World which features one of her seminal hits, “Ooo La La La.” Ms. Marie independently released Passion Play on her own Sarai Records in 1994, but it wasn’t until ten years later that she would again share her talent with the world. As the sole artist signed to Cash Money Classics, the subsidiary of New Orleans rap entity Cash Money Records, Teena Marie released the successful La Doña in 2004, which yielded the grammy nominated #1 hit “Still In Love.”
Forever young, Teena Marie is now more focused than ever: “What I think they [the listener] will feel is the sincerity of the lyrics. The younger people, I think will get to hear what we [Rick James & Teena] were and more of who I am.” “I’m most proud professionally, of the legacy I've been able to create through my music.”
“I also still get a charge when I see all those faces out there during a live performance. Faces that have looked back at me and touched me the way I hope I've touched them. That feeling shines as bright as any gem.”