Filed under “life is often too short …” I heard the news yesterday (on Twitter) oh boy… Rick James’ collaborator, and the woman I swore was black when I was a kid, and who managed to gain the respect of every soul and R&B fan of a certain age or level of music literacy, Teena Marie, died in her sleep on the day after Christmas. She was just 54 years old.
Relatives found Teena’s body Sunday morning at her home. Relatives tell TMZ Teena seemed fine yesterday, when she spent Christmas with her brother. Teena spoke at length yesterday with Lynn, who tells TMZ Teena seemed “fine.”
So far it’s unclear what caused the singer’s death — but the Pasadena Police Department tells TMZ they do no suspect foul play. They say it looks like Teena died of natural causes. The L.A. County Coroner’s Office will perform an autopsy.
Marie was a four time Grammy nominee. She had been scheduled to perform a show on New Year’s Day.
Dozens of tributes have already poured in from the likes of Diddy, Common, Gamble & Huff and Mary J. Blige, not only because they admired and respected her work but also because Marie was a consummate collaborator who worked with a number of different artists and always made the work infinitely better.
Marie got her start as one of Rick James’ protegés, and her voice can be heard prominently on a number of James recordings (most notably on his 1981 single “Fire and Desire”). She quickly found a niche for herself, as not only was she an excellent performer with a killer voice but also a skilled songwriter and arranger. In fact, she wrote, produced, arranged and performed just about every note on Irons in the Fire, her definitive 1980 album that featured the huge hit “I Need Your Lovin.”
Because of her vast skill set, it was only natural that she was sought after as a collaborator even as she continued to create music for herself. In addition to James, Marie worked with the likes of Faith Evans, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Domino, Eve, Smokey Robinson, Kurupt, Common and Birdman, to name just a few. (The Birdman collaboration was particularly fruitful, as Marie was a member of Cash Money Records for a while.) Her tough demeanor and do-it-yourself attitude clearly made her an inspiration to female rappers and R&B upstarts, and it was no mystery why. Not only will Marie fans mourn her passing, but other artists have definitely lost one of the great voices and key collaborators in modern music.
Teena Marie had a lot of great songs, but probably my favorite was her collabo with Rick James, the aforementioned “Fire and Desire.” Here it is. Enjoy:
And here’s a Teena Marie mix courtesy of one of her fans:
The WaPo has an embed of the “Lovergirl” video and a bit more on a possible clue in her death:
No cause of death has been released but, according to CNN, Marie’s publicist said she suffered a grand mal seizure in November from which she was still recovering.