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April 23, 2014

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Teena Marie: Black Music's White Darling

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Teena Marie: Black Music's White Darling
Teena Marie is by far the queen of blue-eyed soul.

A protégé of the late Rick James, with whom she recorded the classic R&B duet 'Fire and Desire,' Marie never imagined she would have a career that would span more than three decades.

"We were experimenting. We were kids having fun, and we were doing music well beyond our years. Really, it was just wonderful. I was 19 and everyone around me was 18, 19 and 20. I had no idea it would last this long and it was absolutely a blessing," she told Black Voices.


Funny enough, now the Santa Monica, Calif.-bred vocalist's daughter Alia Rose is 18-years-old and pursuing musical aspirations of her own.

"She's gotTeena Marie the bug," Marie confessed. "She's been performing with me. But she's in the studio doing her own music."

The 'Square Biz' singer said she's not nervous about her daughter singing professionally because she's prepared her for the cutthroat nature of the industry.

"She's been around me all her life, so she knows the parameters and kind of knows how it's supposed to go. I've kept her protected and she's very smart," she expressed.

The 54-year-old singer, who's affectionately known as Lady T, has collaborated with some great singers over the years. When asked if there is anyone else she would love to duet with, Marie admits that question regularly stumps her.

"I get asked that all the time and its really, really hard for me to answer because I've sang with Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and Rick James and Lenny Kravitz and Gerald Levert and Faith Evans and I've been on stage with Aretha Franklin, you know what I'm saying. So when you've shared company with those amazing icons it's kind of hard for me. I don't' really go past Sarah Vaughan because for me, that was the ultimate," she explained.

Since R&B has been her genre of choice, Marie has become a superstar in African American circles but has rarely receives any recognition in other communities.

'The View' co-host Sherri Shepherd attempted to change that when she invited Marie to perform on the popular ABC talk show. The songstress sang a medley of her greatest hits.
Sunday Best winner Yanna Crawley, Teena Marie & Sherri Shepherd
"They were so nice and it was so fun," she said of the co-hosts.

"Sherri is really a good friend," she continued. "She had been wanting to put me on the show for like two years. Then all of my Twitter friends started hitting her up, driving her crazy and because she wanted to put me on there anyway. She made it happen and it was awesome!"

Marie said she rarely thinks about race, but she is happy that black fans have continued to embrace her with open arms.

"When I first got into the music business, my picture wasn't on the cover. Mr. [Berry] Gordy wanted pCongo Squareeople to hear the music first without judging it by the cover. He was like, 'Let's put the music out first to see if people like it. It's that black-sounding, I want to see if people like it.' And they did like it! I always just wanted to bring people together with music and I think I did that. Some of the greatest opera singers ever are black woman. Are they not supposed to sing opera because they're black? No! You are supposed to sing whatever is in your soul," she closed.

Marie's latest opus, 'Congo Square,' was released on Stax Records and is in stories now.

*****

For related stories, read: 'Teena Marie: Keeping Rick James' Legacy Alive'

& 'Back for More: Shirley Murdock Readying R&B Return.'

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