On a starry winter night in Portugal…..
Mary Christine Brockert aka Teena Marie aka Lady T aka Casper aka Shorty aka Lil’ Bit and sometimes Vanilla Child……where do I begin?!?!
Well, growing up many moons ago, the radio was always on the local radio station 105.3 WDAS FM and I mean ALWAYS! Sometimes it may switch to WJJZ 106.1 and if I was lucky Power 99. This is probably why I have an appreciation for vintage music now. Anyway, I would be in the back seat of my mom’s 1993 Lexus riding around Trenton jamming to the oldies and the good R&B music. I remember summer days filled with music from The Ohio Players, The Isley Brothers, Angela Winbush, the Latest Mary J. Blige bops, all that good music. I was barely 10 years old running around the playground humming an Earth Wind and Fire tune. There was always this one song though, every time it played on the radio my mom would turn it all the way up and belt along….badly. It was cute but…..Sis was tone deaf. Anyway, I always thought the lady that sang the song was a black lady. This was back before google and all the smart phones we have now. I didn’t have an app to immediately tell me who it was I had to ask and figure it out for myself.
So one day the song happened to come on while we were driving to the mall and before my mom got the chance to blast the radio I yelled from he back “MAAAAAAA WHO IS THIS?!?!”
She responded “Boy its Teena Marie and shut up that yelling my song is on!!”. So I had the artist name now I just needed the name of the song. Patiently I waited for the end and for my mom to stop screeching over the track..FINALLY…Patty Jackson comes back on and says..”That was Deja Vu by Lady T, Teena Marie…” BLOOP BLOOP I had all I needed.
Now I may be telling my age (and I really don’t give a dam) but I had to wait for it to come on again so that I could record it on a cassette tape. It wasn’t until 3 years later when I could get it burned on a CD. But then I kept hearing her voice. Another song with some guy I heard sing about Super Freaks or something. I would always hear…LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVE THEM…..AND LEEEEEEEAAAAAVVVEEEEEE THEEEM!! My young mind was blown away! WHAT AND WHO IS THIS?!?! So of course instead of waiting for Auntie Patty to tell me the name I would run to my mom……”MAAAAAAA who is that?!?!”
And as usual she would respond “Boy thats Rick James….you too young to be asking about him go on somewhere!!”
Teena Marie and Rick James…wow!! Now I’m left wondering what they must look like? Oh Teena must be this svelte looking black chick with long black hair. She must be like an amazon or something. Rick sounds like he looks like a playa, he may look a little crazy…..I NEED TO KNOW!!
One summer day after camp my mom came and picked me up and we strutted around downtown Trenton for a bit. There was local music store that sat on the corner next to a pizza shop. I have no idea if its still there but I loved it. Anyway, The Nutty Professor 2 had just came out and I wanted the soundtrack and I’ve been begging my mom to get it for me. I really only wanted it to listen to the Janet Jackson track Doesn’t Really Matter honestly. Didn’t really care about the rest just wanted to hear Janet. So I barged into the store before her to go find the cassette (y’all shut up) and I mean I was looking everywhere. So I start at the T section, y’all I was young and this was before I learned about the filing system. Im looking and looking yet I don’t see it. I felt an attitude coming, I was a tad bit spoiled back then and I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. I didn’t want to give up and my mom still didn’t come in the store yet, so I was left alone on this mission to find the soundtrack. Hmmm T…T…Why cant I find it?!?!Im going through the selection sloppily, not really paying attention. I randomly picked up a CD…..Teena Marie OH SNAAAAAAP!! But I looked at the cover and its a white chick?!?! I snatched the CD up and took it to the guy that worked there. “Excuse me is this the lady that sings Deja Vu?!?” Now this guy is looking down at me like I have 5 heads. Here is this young little boy, not even teenager yet, asking about some Teena Marie! He says “Watchu know about some Teena?” At this pointed Im frustrated, “Sir……is the Lady T that sings with that guy Rick James??”
He slowly grabs the CD from me and says “Where is your mother?” I huff and puff and say” OH MY GAAAWWWDD SHE’S OUTSIDE NOW IS THAT REALLY HER OR NOT?!?!” (I told y’all I was a tad bit spoiled). He nods and then I finally felt complete. Confused but complete. I never heard a white person sing like that before. I was never moved by a white person like that. Well my mom finally came in and she immediately picked up the soundtrack I was looking for. I guess it was all the way in the front of the store and my fast butt ran in and missed it completely. I remember on the car ride home I asked my mom if she knew Teena Marie was white? I felt all special knowing this like it was some secret. She just responded that Im a little too wise beyond my years but yes she knew.
It wasn’t until years later I purchased my first Teena Marie album. Every other Sunday my mom would take me along with her to the Columbus Mart. I loved going there because I would see family members I haven’t seen in a while and old friends with their families. Simply put “Everybody and their mammy be out at Columbus.” At this point in my life music had become critical to my sanity. It was my teenage years and you guys know how that goes. Well, there would be vendors out selling just about anything, it’s like a big garage sale you can find juuuuuust about anything if you look hard enough. She always walked the “Dirt side” first as she called it. We happened to walk past a guy that had a bin of cassettes out, I immediately dove in. I wasnt looking for anything in particular just perusing casually. I pulled up one cassette…..Paul Mooney -Race, hmmmm what could this be about? I handed it to my mom, they were only a dollar so she didnt have a problem getting it for me. The very next cassette i pulled up was Teena Marie – Ivory. I may have let out a loud YAAAASSSSSSSSS, I cant recall exactly it was so many moons ago. So BOOM finally my first Teena Marie album. I wanted to go back to the car and have a jam session but I was forced to walk the entire Mart with my mom, cool whatever I got food in the meantime to shut me up. As soon we got into the car I ripped out the Curtis Mayfield – Supafly tape and I slid in Ivory. I didn’t recognize any of the songs from the radio but I blasted it anyway. I didn’t hear Portuguese Love or Deja Vu or Square Biz or Out On A Limb or Casanova Brown, none of the hits she had on the radio. But I played that album out so much I was able to sing along with every tune within two weeks!
Needless to say I was a supreme Lady T fan before the age of 15. I knew most of her catalogue and I could recognize her voice just about anywhere. Now years passed and Ive added more and more to my Teena Marie collection (I even named my tumblr page after one of my favorite ballads by Teena Aladdin’s Lamp )yet I never got the chance to see her in concert. But one thing I can say is that I got to connect with her in some sort of way (SHOUT OUT TO TWITTER!!)
Teena Marie was a master at her craft. She wrote and produced all her work. She sang from the heart and she gave us her soul. There are few people around new and old that I can say were all about love and Teena Marie was just that. She created many a tunes that STILL to this day get played everywhere. She was featured on the tv series Unsung and was introduced to the younger crowd during a BET Award performance with her longtime music partner and soulmate Rick James (Im Rick James Bitch!). During her later years she produced tracks with her daughter Alia Rose, a singer in her own right. Teena was loved and cherished in the black community, low key some folks still don’t know that she’s a little white chick belting out these tunes! LONG LIVE LADY T TEENA MARIE!!!
PS: Did you know that Teena Marie is Maya Rudolph’s god mother? Maya is the daughter of the legendary songbird Minnie Riperton. Teena dedicated her album Lady T to Minnie and also had young Maya on the track Too Many Colors. She was also the god mother to Nona Gaye, daughter of the legendary Marvin Gaye. She also helped out Lenny Kravitz and let him stay at her home when his career was underwater. Teena was basically the mother to all the legends’ kids! Personally my favorite Teena Marie album is It Must Be Magic (one would think it would be Ivory since it was the album I bought first but nope) and my favorite Lady T song is Naked To The World (always loved her ballads ALWAYS!)