By Dennis J. Freeman
I was a young teenager the first time I heard Teena Marie on the radio. The song, “Square Biz,” kind of jumped through the speakers with its vibrant bounce and strumming bass beats.
The groove was cool, but the cold part of the entire song was Marie doing her thing on the rap tip, which just had come into play in the music industry.
I remember the strong vocal chords effortlessly belting out the song with such richness as if Marie was ready to go another couple of hours in the studio to record. I was hooked.
From that day on, like millions of folks around the world, I became a fan of Marie.
The sudden death of Marie, at the age of 54, now, like millions of her fans across the globe, has left me saddened. It seems all the great ones leave early…Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Rick James, Gerald LeVert and now Marie.
With their each of their passing, it has seemed like great music left with them. The musical world is a lot poorer with the loss of each of these great talents.
And now we are left without the beautiful, soul-rendering pipes of Marie. Marie, who passed away a couple of days after Christmas, was unique in so many ways as a recording artist and performer. It’s so ironic that I was just watching a rerun of Soul Train on the Centric Channel about a week ago, and lo and behold, Marie, better known as Lady T, was on the show performing.
The accolades have been plentiful for Marie, whose strings of hits include I’m Just a Sucker for Your Love (duet with Rick James), Square Biz, Fire and Desire (duet with Rick James), Ooo La La La and Portuguese Love. Marie was one of the best soul singers during this genre. Actually, it’s kind of hard to find any other female R & B artist that has left their imprints on the industry as much as Marie has in the last three decades.
But what sets this soul singer apart from the rest of the pack is that Teena Marie was Teena Marie. There isn’t another singer that can compare to her. Marie’s uniqueness is the funkiness and soulfulness that came from the God-gifted vocal chords she blessed audiences with.
Sure, there were a lot of pretty love songs that came up during Marie’s era. But when your heard Marie, you knew that the Santa Monica, California-born singer would bring her unusual blend of grittiness, funk and tongue-and-cheek soul to any melody she put out.
While she could bring the funk while riffing with her guitar, Marie’s best introduction to the world has been through her love songs, which oftentimes emulated raw passion and could generate seductive heat. If you don’t think so, try listening to Out on a Limb, Fire and Desire and Portuguese Love.
Marie had it like that. She could get you on the dance floor one moment and then put you in an intimate mood the next. She is one for the ages, her music timeless. And we will always have that.