December 28th, 2010
01:47 PM ET
While the world awaits word as to the cause of death for R & B singer Teena Marie, we look back at some things about the “Ivory Queen of Soul’s” life you might not have known:
1) She has a connection to “Saturday Night Live” – The singer was godmother to former “SNL” cast member Maya Rudolph who is the daughter of the late legendary singer Minnie Ripperton and music producer Richard Rudolph. Richard Rudolph produced Marie’s second album, “Lady T.”
2) She was a free spirit early on – Marie admitted during a TV One episode of the show “Unsung” that she got into a little bit of trouble while a student at Venice High School in Los Angeles, California. During a production of the musical “Carousel,” she was booted out for smoking marijuana, the singer said.
3) Fans weren’t the only ones surprised by her ethnicity – Early in her career, Motown opted not to send out press photographs so as not to prejudice fans and radio stations with the fact that Marie was white. But one of her childhood friends, singer Mickey Boyce-Ellis, reportedly said she didn’t realize her best friend was white until one day Marie’s mother came to school to pick her up.
4) She and Rick James weren’t just musical partners – The pair shared a tumultuous love affair which Marie said resulted in a two week long engagement. The "Super Freak" singer produced her early work and they famously dueted on the passionate single “Fire and Desire.” They broke up in 1981 but reconciled musically in 2004 for a tour and a performance on the BET Awards which earned a standing ovation. James died two months later.
5) She was a rap pioneer – Marie was one of the first musical artists to incorporate rhyme into an R & B song. In 1981, she rapped on her single “Square Biz” off the album “It Must Be Magic.”
6) She crossed racial boundaries – The singer was embraced by the Black community, as has been evidenced by the outpouring of grief and tributes since her death. In 2004, she was signed to a sub-label of the successful Cash Money Records, home of rap superstar Lil Wayne. She later moved on to the Stax Records.
In his Atlantic essay “The Indomitable Blackness of Teena Marie,” writer Ta-Nehisi Coates says "I'm sure some of the old-heads here, can come up with a corollary, but I'm having trouble thinking of a white artist whose relationship to black music mirrored Teena Marie's. More specifically, I can't think of a white artist who was more beloved by such a large swath of black people than Teena Marie."
7) She influenced law – After leaving Motown Records in the 1980s, the label sued her and she responded in a countersuit which resulted in the “Brockert Initiative” which was named for the singer whose real name was Mary Christine Brockert. The initiative clarified a California law which made it impossible for record labels to keep a performer under contract without paying them royalties.
8) She remained a part of the Motown family – Despite the legal troubles, Marie and Berry Gordy remained close and she often referred to him as her father. The Motown founder has said he is devastated by her death.
9) She’s not the only singer in the family – Marie was often joined these past few years on stage by her daughter Alia Rose who performs under the name Rose Le Beau. The pair were extremely close (Marie had refered to her daughter's Christmas birth as her greatest gift) and it was her daughter who reportedly discovered Marie’s body. "The thing that I am most proud of is my child,” Marie told TV One. “That I was able to do these things that I did, but I was able to still be a good mother."
10) She loved Sarah Vaughn to the end – Not only did Marie pay homage to the great jazz singer in interviews and song (in “Square Biz” Marie raps about her) but one of her last tweets the day before her death quotes Vaughn: “May you never grow old, and may I never die.”
About this blog
Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.