By Clay Claiborne
The famous Rhythm & Blues singer Teena Marie died in her home in Pasadena the day after Christmas. She was born Mary Christine Brockert in Santa Monica in 1956 and grew up in Oakwood and was raised on Motown music and African-American culture. She attended Venice High School and worked at the Pup ‘n’ Taco in Mar Vista. She was singing Harry Belafonte’s songs when she was 2, had a child acting role on the Beverly Hillbillies, and at 10 sang at the wedding of Jerry Lewis” son. In 1976 she became the first White singer signed by Motown.
In addtion to singing, she played rhythm guitar, keyboards and congas. Starting with her 1980 album Irons in the Fire, she wrote, produced, arranged and sang virtually all her songs. In 1982 she sued Motown over its refusal to release her from her contract or release her new material. The lawsuit resulted in the ‘the Brockert Initiative”, which made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material for that artist. She released 13 highly successful albums between 1979 and 2009.
She was known by friends and family as “Lady Tee”, but since her death, the media, always quick to look for a racial angle, has taken to calling her ‘the Ivory Queen of Soul.” I was surprised by this and asked some friends, who like me have been long time fans. Nobody had heard Lady Tee called that before, and the Detroit News, and they know Motown, said, ‘there’s been a lot of debate over the last few days about whether Motown’s Teena Marie, who died Sunday, was ever called “The Ivory Queen of Soul.” “While the media that never much promoted her in life may have their own agenda with this label, Teena Maria will forever be remembered as Lady Tee and a child of Venice.