Tuesday, 28 December 2010 00:20

She was known as the singer of such 1980s hits as  "Lovergirl," "Ooo La La La" and "Lead Me On." Her name was Teena Marie and among her claims to fame was that she was the first white act on the legendary Motown label.

Teena Marie died Sunday. She was 54.

She reportedly died in her sleep and was found by her daughter.
An autopsy for the R&B singer was scheduled for early this week, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office told news sources Monday.

The singer made her debut LP on Motown, 1979's “Wild and Peaceful,” which was written with her mentor Rick James. Motown, who rarely signed white artists, made a deliberate choice to not have her photo on the cover — leading to a longstanding belief that Marie was actually black.

Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert) was born in Santa Monica and began performing at a very young age. She later became known as the "Ivory Queen of Soul.” While she was not the first white act to sing soul music, she eventually became widely recognized as among the most gifted and respected, and became popular among black audiences.

During her years with Motown, Teena Marie evolved into a singer-songwriter and musician who produced catchy dance tunes and intense love songs like "Behind the Groove," "Need Your Lovin'," and "Ooh La La La."

Teena Marie would eventually release a half dozen albums with mixed success. Yet another claim to fame was Teena Marie’s legal battle with Motown when she attempted to leave the label.

In 1982, she won a landmark lawsuit that declared it illegal for labels to keep artists under contract while refusing to release their work. That law became known as the "Brockert Initiative," after Marie's real name.

"It wasn't something I set out to do," she told the Los Angeles Times in 2004. "I just wanted to get away from Motown and have a good life. But it helped a lot of people, like Luther Vandross and the Mary Jane Girls and a lot of different artists, to be able to get out of their contracts."

In the 1990s Teena Marie took a long break to focus on raising her children daughter but in 2004 she returned with the album “La Dona,” released on Cash Money and featured contributions by Common, Birdman, Gerard Levert and Rick James. It was James' final recording before his death.

Teena Marie's most recent release was 2009's "Congo Square."