Remembering Teena Marie


It’s Sunday December 26, 2010, the day after Christmas and I’m TIRED. Hitting up church for Christmas Eve service, wrapping presents ALL NIGHT LONG, waking back up at the crack of dawn to unwrap the same presents I just wrapped. Then playing with my 5 year old daughter ALL DAY LONG, then getting up early today to hit up church for Sunday service and then coming right back home to playing with my daughter some more. And on top of all of that they cancel the Eagles game?!?! Does it ever end? Then my homegirl Vickey from Couch Sessions hits me up asking if I wanna write a piece on Teena Marie and I’m like “no doubt, I LOVE Teena Marie! What do you want me to write about? Her career? She got a new CD dropping?” And she’s like “neither, she’s dead.”

What happened? Teena Marie is dead? Naw, that’s my girl, can’t be. Gotta be a mistake. It seems like I was just watching her Unsung on TV One. But it’s true, Teena Marie, one of my fav singers ever is dead. And like Nas said on “New York State of Mind”, “I don’t even know how to start this.” I mean, how do I explain what Teena Marie’s music has meant to me? I can’t do the whole “I remember the first time I heard Teena Marie” blah, blah, blah story because I don’t remember the first time but for as long as I can remember her music has been in my life. Teena’s been with me through middle school, through high school, through college, through my adult life, through different relationships. Teena has been part of the soundtrack of my life. I have every single one of her albums in my crates. Her music is on my laptop. Her music is on my blackberry. Her music is on my PS3. Her music is all over my slow jams tapes dating back to 7th grade and all the way up to my newest slow jam CD’s I’ve just made this year. I’ve sampled her music. In fact, 2 of my favorite beats I’ve ever made, sample Teena Marie. She is the owner of three of my favorite all time slow jams with “Dear Lover”, “Portuguese Love” and “Out On A Limb.” Teena Marie is the owner of one of my favorite songs to set off ANY party with “Sqaure Biz.” Not to mention, in 1981 Lady Tee was a better MC then the majority of the female MC’s that are out right now! And who’s gonna dare front on “Fire and Desire” with Rick James? Do you getter any more classic then that song?

So what was so special about Lady Tee’s music? To me it was her passion, her words and her voice. When she sang, I felt every single word. I’ve always called that kinda music “Philly music” because you FEEL every ounce of it. To me most good singers can either straight up and down sing or they have beautiful voices (and there’s a BIG difference between the two) but few have both and Teena Marie was one of those few. Plus Lady Tee wrote and produced the bulk of the music in her catalogue after her 2nd album. So, not only can she sing and sing with passion but she writes and produces her own music?!?! That’s what I call a problem. And that’s what Teena Marie was for other R&B chicks in the game, a real problem. And I hate to play the race card but how many people HONESTLY thought that Teena Marie was white when they first heard her? Ya’ll know ya’ll thought she was black! And the funny thing is I never got down with the whole “blue eye soul” tag for Teena, Hall and Oats, Bobby Caldwell or any of the other dope white singers, cause to me if you can sing, you can sing. It’s the same thing with playing ball. Larry Bird wasn’t a great “white” ball player, he was just a great ball player. Likewise, Teena Marie wasn’t a great “blue eye soul” singer, she was just a flat out great singer. And not for nuthin, but as much as I LOVE Lauryn, we all know it was Lady Tee’s hook on “Fugee La” that help spawn one of the biggest selling hip hop albums of all time right?

Thinking about Teena Marie’s passing has me wondering, why am I complaining about the things in my life that I should be looking at as blessings? Instead of complaining about being tired of wrapping gifts, I should be thankful that my daughter had gifts to wrap in the first place, right? Instead of complaining about having to go to Christmas Eve and Sunday service at church, I should be happy I’ve got a great church to attend, right? And instead of complaining about my daughter always wanting me to play with her, I should be happy I have a great daughter who wants to spend time with her daddy, right? It’s sad that it took the news of Teena Marie’s passing to wake me up outta my funk but prayerfully her passing will remind us all that tomorrow is absolutely NOT promised and that we should be cherishing the time we have here, not complaining about it.