December 26 marks the second anniversary of the passing of legendary soul artist Teena Marie. Gone but not forgotten, her latest single, “Luv Letter,” is still climbing Media Base’s Urban AC chart (at No. 30 at press time). Her last body of work, a 12-track album called “Beautiful, will be released through Universal on January 15. The album was near completion before her untimely passing the day after Christmas in 2010. Her daughter Alia Rose, now 20, has made it her mission to complete the project and get it out there to her legion of fans, of which many are radio programmers and personalities, and other stars of the industry.
“She had so much soul,” declares longtime urban programmer John “Candyman” Candelaria, now PD of KOAS-FM (105.7The Oasis) and KVGS-FM (Bob FM 107.9) in Las Vegas. “First thing, she laid the groundwork or a lot of artists that are relevant today. Her range was incredible. When it comes to R&B, you better bring it. Her listeners knew she was real. She was accepted.”
Mark Dylan, OM/PD of KOKY-FM (12.23) in Little Rock, is another fan of Lady T, also referred to as the Ivory Queen of Soul.
“Teena Marie, in my opinion, had as much (if not more) impact on the R&B scene (and opened doors to female rappers) as Aretha/Anita/Whitney and all others who are considered top end trendsetters. Records like “Square Biz,” “I Need Your Lovin’,” “Fire and Desire,” “Dear Lover” and many more are as timeless as anyone else’s contributions to the genre. The only tragedy I see in her legacy was “General Market” (CHR-Hot AC) radio’s failure to embrace and understand how powerful a talent she always was. Their loss, because her legacy is set in stone at Black radio.”
Indeed, Teena Marie’s “Square Biz” was arguably the first female rap record. It went to No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B chart.
She was a favorite on Black radio, where her color did not matter. In fact, music industry icon Berry Gordy said about Teena Marie”¦ “The only thing white about her was her skin.” Listeners, programmers insist, did not care about that. “I would start by saying, the first thing people think about when hearing the name of the super star is: How can so much soul come from a white female?” comments Vic Jackson, PD and on-air personality at WMGU-FM (Magic 106.9) in Fayetteville, N.C. “She was the true definition of Blue-eyed soul singer. I honestly believe that my listeners didn’t care what (read more click “next” above or below)color she was; her music was heart felt. No matter what she sang, it was always perceived as coming from within. Back in the day, I remember talking to listeners who believed she was African-American. I guess being a woman who could play rhythm guitar, keyboards and congas… she couldn’t help but be soulful!”
Adds Kenny Smoov, PD of WQQK-FM (92Q) in Nashville, “Teena Marie came into the Urban game at a tough time for a young white girl. Although it didn’t hurt that she had the best mentor and “˜co-signor’ of the time on her team: Rick James. However, it was her natural talent that made everything stick! She had the voice and the talent to WOW a crowd. Her fans liked her realness. She wasn’t faking it. This was who she was. I always say that listeners are like bloodhounds ““ they can tell if you’re faking it (not counting the whole Milli Vanilli thing). And that will be her legacy. Her talent was real and her music was honest, and with those two things, her legacy will be here so that my daughter’s daughter will sing a Teena Marie song!” “I think my mom had many experiences in romance,” daughter Alia says. “She was a bit of a hopeless romantic, so much so that I don’t think she was ever completely satisfied. I think that’s why she wrote such amazing love songs. That was her expertise.”
Coast to coast, her passion was recognized.
“Teena’s music felt “˜free’!” says Skip Dillard, PD of heritage WBLS-FM in New York. “It was emotionally moving and poetic. Her love songs were really not appreciated enough and underplayed on radio. She gave us some of the most beautiful ballads ever created.” Jerold Jackson, PD of KMJK-FM (Magic 107.3) in Kansas City, echoes those thoughts. “Her music was real. You could feel the pain and the passion, and even the pleasure. Songs like “˜Portuguese Love’ were so visionary, too. You’d listen and see the stars, feel the sensuality of the moment.”
“We didn’t think of Teena as Black or white. She had a beautiful voice and a beautiful spirit that came though her music, which I loved coming up,” adds Yolanda Neeley,” PD of WBGA-FM (B92.7 Jams) in Savannah, GA.
“Teena was another one of God’s miracles to remind us he’s around,” says R&B legend Ray Parker Jr. “She had overwhelming talent and was a sweet person as well. In fact she was my wife’s personal favorite.” Howard Hewett was about to work with Teena Marie before she passed. “She was able to transcend into R&B with ease. And she sis it well. Her legacy is (read more click “next” above or below)call the incredible music she left behind. Every day you hear something on the radio from her cache of hits.”
There are a lot of great memories and stories about Lady T. “Teena Marie was an amazing talent with such a beautiful spirit. I’ll never forget her telling me about Rick James pulling her out of the hospital and taking her to the studio to record “˜Fire & Desire,’ and then taking her back to the hospital [laughs], and now that song is apart of history, just as Teena Marie’s legacy will always be,” recalls Frank Ski, morning show co-host on WVEE-FM (V103) in Atlanta. Legendary radio personality Guy Brody, on-air at iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel)’s WLRO-AM (1201) in Baton Rouge, also remembers her fondly. “I met her while doing a syndicated show called “˜Highlights’ with J.J. Johnson. It was a most pleasurable moment. She was down to earth, real, just a loving spirit. She was one of a kind. Nobody sounds Like Lady T.”
Teena Marie was indeed a favorite for decades, beginning in the late “˜70s with her first release on Motown. In addition to the many hits and classic tunes she left behind, there is also her beautiful daughter, Alia Rose. Just 18 at her mother’s passing, the young woman ““ a budding artist in her own right ““ made it her mission the last two years to complete her mom’s last body of work.
“There was never a doubt in my mind not to finish it,” Alia Rose says. “I knew exactly what to do. I was prepared ““ my mom was very spiritual and I knew that this was something that I had to do in my life. I t would be a milestone.” She continues: “All I had to do was the final mixes for some of the tracks. As far as the artwork, I did all that.” Favorite tracks of Alia Rose’s include “The Perfect Feeling,” “Definition of Down,” which she says is a dedication song. She also favors “I Know Love” and “Carte Blanc.”
“I honestly love this whole CD,” she adds. “All the songs are amazing. One day I started really listening to it and realized how brilliant and amazing it all was. I am so excited about it. And I hope the fans love it as much as I do because she poured her heart into it. There’s something about this one ““ it’s like she was making the transition when she was writing this.” Surely, for the blossoming teen, who also considered her mom her best friend, it must have been an emotional experience. “I think she was here with me. I am still feeling the pain. We were very close. I try to live the way she would want me to.” Alia Rose sings with Teena on two tracks, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love” and “Rare Breed,” which she co-wrote. She co-wrote two more songs on the album: “Sweet Tooth” and the title song, “Beautiful.”
“The project was a bittersweet thing,” Alia recalls. “I knew that only I could get it done, but I almost didn’t want to finish because I knew it would be the last time I’d get to work on it.” Alia is looking to carry on her mom’s legacy of helping others (Teena Marie took in Lenny Kravitz and helped him find his way) with the creation of Chateau Marie, a studio developed with (read more click “next” above or below)cTeena’s studio equipment. The spot, which will also serve as a memoriam, was devised with partner Odd Future’s “Syd tha Kyd” Bennett.
The 12-track album “Beautiful” was co-produced by Teena’s longtime musical director”¦ bassist/composer Doug Grigsby, whose credits include Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Mariah Carey, Stephanie Mills, Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James and Luther Vandross, among others. It was recorded and mixed by Erik Zobler, whose studio credits include Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” as well as recording projects with Miles Davis, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker and Gladys Knight, among many others.
How does Alia want people to remember Teena Marie? “As an inspiration and as a true artist.”
Facts about Teena Marie:
The Fugees sample of her “Ooh LaLaLa,” and that song ““ “Fu-Gee-La” ““ turned into one of their biggest hits. She put out 13 albums (“Beautiful will be No. 14) and several compilations. She released 30 singles and 29 of them charted, the most successful being “Ooh La La La” (which charted No. 1), “I Need Your Lovin'” (No. 2) and “Square Biz” (No. 3). Seven hit the Top 10. She had six albums go Gold and two went Platinum. When she sued Motown to get out of her contract, the courts inevitably passed “The Brockert Initiative”, which made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material for that artist.
The 12-track CD is fresh with cuts that, ironically, often take you down Memory Lane. “Maria Bonita” has that breezy Caribbean Latin feel of past hit “Portuguese Love.” She shimmers her voice (as only she can) on a luscious tropical-flavored background. The song is at once passionate and warm. She always had a knack for lighting a fire!
Another hot track is “The Perfect Feeling,” a haunting yet gorgeous piece that exhibits the incredible range she had. She goes from mellow alto tones to the high echelons of her crystalline voice with ease. A cool cut is “Definition of Down,” which is just plain sexy. It has that mysterious air that comes with the games of love played early in a relationship. A real sensuous, lover’s lullaby is Carte Blanc. So sweet as she explores the vulnerability of true passion, love and lust. The title track, “Beautiful,” is just that. It’s one of those wondrous ballads she was so good at creating. It’s definitely got an old school flavor but can stand with up against its contemporary counterparts. There is a remake of “Wild Horses” (from her “Passion Play” album) and also a curvaceous cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love.” For the lover”¦ check out the 6-1/2 minute “Long Play.” “Beautiful” hits stores January 15.