An early Rick James protégé,
she had sizable hits for both Motown and Epic during the ‘80s.
By Fred Mills
Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert), the fiery, diminutive
pop/soul singer and Rick James protégé who racked numerous hits for both
Motown-distributed Gordy Records and Epic during the ‘80s, passed away yesterday
at the age of 54. The cause of death has not yet been disclosed. Her manager, Mike
Gardner indicated that she had apparently died in her sleep at her home in California and was found
by her daughter.
Her publicist, Lynn Jeter, told CNN.com that a month ago
Marie had suffered a grand mal seizure and was hospitalized, but more recently
she’d recovered and was “excited” about an upcoming show in Atlanta.
The little girl with the room-filling voice (who was also an
accomplished guitarist) first appeared on the scene in 1979 with Wild and Peaceful, which featured heavy
contributions from James, and in many corners record buyers were initially
unaware that she was a white singer; her photo did not appear on the album
sleeve, and the fact that she was on a mostly black label added to that
impression. Later she made news for a precedent-setting lawsuit against Gordy/Motown
to be released from her contract.
Among her hits over the years: “I’m A Sucker For Your Love,”
“Lovergirl,” “Need Your Lovin’,” “Behind the Groove” and
“Ooh La La La.”
In the past decade she also recorded a pair of albums for the Cash Money label.