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Happy 68th Heavenly Lady T

5th March 1956 was indeed a blessed day for future soul survivors with Steve Arrington being born in the same year and day as Mary Christine Brockert better know as Teena Marie aka ‘Vanilla Choc’, ‘Lady T’ & the ‘Queen Of Ivory Soul’.

Born and raised in Santa Monica California with Portuguese ancestry, Teena was a child star at an early age appearing in the USA TV show ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’. Teena loves music and running track (athletics) at high school and had an infinity passion for loving Smokey Robinson of Motown.

Teena fronted a rock band Truvair between 1974-75 before she signed to Motown Records around 1976 and wrote ‘Just As Long As There Is You’ for Tata Vega’s 1976 album.

Motown head honcho Berry Gordy decided to team her up with Rick James on her debut 1978 ‘ Wild & Peaceful’ album. Berry reversed the race record covers psychology by using a seascape image as opposed to showcasing Teena’s natural Caucasian complexion so that her music would be judged on its quality rather than her ethnicity, something that would be questioned with Motown being a predominantly black artist label.

The album was a success with songs like the funk/disco productions ‘I’m Just A Sucker For Your Love’ & her cover of idol ‘ Smokey Robinson’s composition & Temptations classic ‘Don’t Look Back’. Her following ‘Lady T’ album championed the universal anthem ‘Behind The Groove’ and further cemented Teena’s stamp on the soul world. It was then that everyone became aware that Teena was Caucasian.

True story whilst I was at college in 1980 a fellow Caucasian female student Debbie Slingsby #told me that her Caucasian boyfriend was in love with Teena Marie. I was alarmed as, as odd as it may sound today, back then it was unusual that a white man would openly declare his attracted to a black woman, who due to how Teena was so in Lady T’s own words so ‘black sounding’, I wrongly assumed that Teena Marie was black. I naively remember asking Debbie “What he’s attracted to a black girl?” and Debbie proclaimed to my dismay that she was white. I was a bit embarrassed but Beeey Gordy’s sea scape ethos clearly worked on me .

Teena recorded 4 incredible Motown albums including ‘ Irons In The Fire’ & her swan song final 1981 album ‘ It Must Be Magic’ showcasing the inspiring ‘Portuguese Love’ & ‘Square Biz’.

Teena had a very intense relationship with Motown bad boy Rick James who she sang a duet masterpiece with namely ‘Fire & Desire’ fromHis ‘ Street Songs’ album and Rick wrote a very personal ‘ My Love’ dedicated to Teena on his 1982 ‘ Throwin’ Down’ album.

Teena made history when she got into a legal battle with Motown via the ‘Brockert Initiave’ which made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material for that artist. This enabled artists like Luther Vandross to get out of their unfair contracts.

Teena signed to Epic and released her debut 1983 ‘Robbery’ album and a further 5 albums on the label. Teena’s music was sampled in the 90’s by The Firm and The Fugees and Teena continued as a solo artist to keep herself relevant.

Her final album ‘Congo Square’ paved a way for Teena to come and perform in January 2010 at The Indig02 London to a sellout audience. I was fortunate through Steve Ripley to interview Teena on the phone in the winter of 2009 where she graced our The Soul Survivors Magazine front cover and then face to face the day before the Indig02 concert.

The concert was a major success and Teena was due to return a year later but unfortunately, she passed on Boxing Day 2010 aged 54. Meeting and interviewing Teena was a career highlight for me as I loved her voice and her metaphoric writing skills and she shared some personal stories with me for our interview which gave those who read it a great insight into her psyche.

As aforementioned Teena today shared her now a heavenly born day the same date and year as Steve Arrington so today you can blast her ‘Behind The Groove’ classics loud & proud!!

To purchase the first interview click below


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