Mary Christine Brockert (March 5, 1956 – December 26, 2010), better known by her stage name Teena Marie, was an American singer, songwriter and producer. She was known as Tina before taking the stage name Teena Marie, then she later acquired the nickname of Lady Tee (sometimes spelled Lady T), given to her by collaborator and friend, Rick James.
She was known for her distinctive soulful vocals which initially caused many listeners to believe she was African-American. Her success in R&B and soul and loyalty to these genres would earn her the title Ivory Queen of Soul. She played rhythm guitar, keyboards and congas. She also wrote, produced, sang, and arranged virtually all of her songs since her 1980 release, Irons in the Fire, which she later said was her favorite album.
Early life (1956–1978)
Mary Christine, or Tina as she was called, was the daughter to construction worker Thomas Leslie Brockert and his wife, home renovator Mary Anne. She spent her early childhood in Mission Hills. Her ethnic heritage was Portuguese, Italian, Irish, and Native American. In 2005, while visiting Louisiana, she had discovered that her paternal ancestors once lived in New Orleans. Brockert took to singing naturally, performing Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song by age two. She also developed a fondness for singing the songs of Motown, and her self-professed “gift from God” would become fine-tuned as the years progressed.
When Brockert was eight years old, her parents began sending her on auditions which, among other things, netted her an acting role on The Beverly Hillbillies, credited as Tina Marie Brockert. She also sang at the wedding of actor Jerry Lewis' son when she was 10 years old. Reared in a Roman Catholic household, she learned to play the piano under the tutelage of two nuns and later taught herself the guitar, bass, and congas. She would go on to form a semi-professional R&B band with her younger brother Anthony and their cousin.
In the early 1970s, after the family moved to Venice, Los Angeles, Brockert spent her adolescent years in the historically black Venice enclave of Oakwood, nicknamed "Venice Harlem". There, she would acquire a strong spiritual influence from neighborhood matriarch Berthalynn Jackson, an African American who would become her godmother.
While attending Venice High School, Brockert joined the Summer Dance Production, and also had the female lead in the school's production of The Music Man. She also fronted a local Venice rock band "Truvair" in 1974–1975; the band's members were some of her fellow high school students.
Following graduation, Brockert juggled auditioning for various record companies with studying English Literature at Santa Monica College. She credited her love of reading with helping her to write the lyrics she's known for.
Epic era (1983–1990)
Contacted by Epic Records in the Fall of 1982 after expressing dismay over her Motown contract, Teena Marie signed a worldwide deal with the Columbia Records subsidiary that also allowed her to establish her own publishing company, Midnight Magnet. Epic released the concept album Robbery, which featured the hit "Fix It" (#21 R&B), as well as "Shadow Boxing" and "Casanova Brown." The latter was one of a number of tracks Teena Marie would write over the years about her real-life romance with one-time mentor Rick James. The relationship had ended by that point, but the two would continue a sometimes tempestuous friendship, until James' death in August 2004. In 1984, Teena Marie released her biggest-selling album, Starchild. It yielded her biggest hit "Lovergirl", which peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1985. It also peaked at No. 9 on the R&B chart. The label also released the moderate R&B hit "Out on a Limb", which peaked at No. 56 on the R&B chart, but didn't break the Hot 100. "14k" was featured on the soundtrack of the film Goonies (1985) but was not a hit (only making the U.S. R&B charts at #87).
In 1986, Teena Marie released a rock music-influenced concept album titled Emerald City. It was controversial with her established fan base and not as successful as its predecessors. She also recorded another rock-influenced track, "Lead Me On", co-produced by Giorgio Moroder, for the soundtrack of the box office hit film, Top Gun (1986). In 1988, however, she returned to her R&B and funk roots, releasing the critically acclaimed album Naked to the World. That album contained the hit "Ooo La La La", which reached the top of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and was her only No. 1 single on that chart. During her 1988 Naked to the World concert tour, she suffered a fall and was hospitalized for six months.
Teena Marie released Ivory in the fall of 1990; it scored no pop hits, but it did experience two R&B hits: "Here's Looking at You" (#11 R&B) and "If I Were a Bell" (#8 R&B).
Teena Marie never married. She gave birth to a daughter named Alia Rose in 1991. She has never disclosed who her daughter's father was. As of 2009, Alia Rose sings under the name Rose LeBeau.
Throughout her career, Teena Marie lived in Inglewood, California and Encino before settling in Pasadena in the mid-1980s.
In addition to Maya Rudolph, Teena Marie was godmother to Marvin Gaye's daughter Nona Gaye. She also cared for Rick James' son, Rick Jr. and family friend Jeremiah O'Neal. Lenny Kravitz posted a video in which he said that Teena Marie had taken him into her home and helped him when he was struggling early in his career. Teena's hobbies included archery, drawing, and writing poetry
In 2004, while sleeping in a hotel room, a large picture frame fell and struck Teena Marie on the head. The blow caused a serious concussion that would result in momentary seizures for the rest of her life. On the afternoon of December 26, 2010, Teena Marie was found unresponsive by her daughter Alia Rose at her home in Pasadena, California. On December 30, 2010, an autopsy was performed by the Los Angeles County coroner, who found no signs of apparent trauma or discernible cause of death and concluded she had died from natural causes. She had suffered a grand mal epileptic seizure just one month before her death.
A memorial service was held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on January 10, 2011. Among the luminaries who attended were Smokey Robinson, LisaRaye, Sinbad, Tichina Arnold, Stevie Wonder, Shanice Wilson and Tata Vega.
Teena Marie in 2005
|Birth name||Mary Christine Brockert|
|Also known as||Lady Tee, Vanilla Child, Ivory Queen Of Soul|
|Born||March 5, 1956|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Died||December 26, 2010 (aged 54)|
Pasadena, California, U.S.
|Genres||R&B, disco, soul, funk, jazz|
|Occupations||Singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboard instruments, electric guitar, congas|
|Labels||Gordy Records, Epic/CBS, Cash Money Records/Universal,Stax/Concord|
|Associated acts||Rick James, Ozone, Q.T hush, Bernadette Cooper, Eve|