I just learned that legendary r&b, soul and funk singer Teena Marie died yesterday of natural causes at age 54 and I join with her many fans in mourning her loss. For me, her voice transcended genres. I loved the musical setting of her music, but that wasn't what got me. It was that voice!
Listening back to some of her songs and checking out some videos of her music led me back to her 1984 album "Starchild" and it felt like the first time I heard her sing. I was so drawn to the emotion and vulnerability in her strong, secure, skilled and passionate sound. I couldn't get her voice out of my head. And now it's back with me as she moves on.
Teena Marie was one of the greatest vocalists of the last thirty-five years and was instrumental in paving the way and making a bridge for the mix of r&b and hip hop that is now a staple of contemporary music. She signed with Motown Records in 1976, switched to Epic in '83 and worked continuously until 1990. She took a fourteen year hiatus, returned in 2004 and released three more albums, including 2009's "Congo Square", which reached the Top 20 on Billboard's Top 200.
As I was reading through and listening to some remembrances, I found an interesting connection. Teena Marie worked with songwriter and music producer Richard Rudolph, husband of another great r&b singer, Minnie Riperton. Rudolph produced "Lady T" for Teena Marie in 1980, a year after Riperton died. One of the album's songs "Too Many Colors" features the voice of 7 year-old Maya Rudolph, the actress and Rudolph's and Riperton's daughter. Maya Rudolph became Teena Marie's god-daughter.
That voice...filling up some other space. Peaceful passage.