Soul Phenom Teena Marie, Could she have been UNDERrated?


 width=I’m preparing for a syndicated radio interview in the morning on the passing of Teena Marie so I’m reviewing some of my favorite material by her. I’m blasting “Midnight Magnet” on my iPod at Borders and I guess this older white guy can hear it so he got up and moved, fughim. I feel sorry for him not knowing the music of one of the greatest R&singers of all time….   There must be a support group for people like him (lol).Without question, it is hard for me to believe I have sat at the same table as her and had conversation. She was so down to earth, I almost forgot how brilliant she was musically.I remember the first time I heard her was in college “Square Biz” was a HUGE smash all over campus and Teena took it ALL the way in that song talking about Collard Greens and at the same time giving clues to her identity “…Casper, shorty Lil’ Bit and some they call me Vanilla Child” She even rapped during the song which at the time was still pretty new to the mainstream ESPECIALLY from women. Industry genius Berry Gordy stated he intentionally kept her identity a secret for as long as he could because he wanted people to hear her voice before they categorized her. When Teena finally appeared, for me it was a TV appearance with Rick James, I was blown away. I am from Buffalo and my sister dated Rick’s bodyguard so I knew that crew but I never recall Teena hanging around Buffalo back then. When I saw her and Rick on TV the first time, I thought… Teena Marie is WHITE? I thought… Then the thought went as fast as it came when I had to say “DAMN, can she sing” who cares what color she is. That was Berry’s exact intent and it worked like a charm.While black artists may not have been treated fairly during the pre Civil Rights Motown days, black music ALWAYS made an indelible impression on EVERYONE whereas white singers who sang black music were often rare and there were probably many who never made it to the limelight because they were categorized immediately (sound familiar?). It certainly had to be viewed a s a true labor of love from other white artists who KNEW they fared better singing pop music.What I liked MOST about Teena was her amazing ability to write and then to paint an amazing picture with her lyrics. “Midnight Magnet” was one of my favorite songs by her. I am listening to is as I write this and I can’t believe how great it sounds. A couple of my other favorite songs was “Dear Lover” Teena sang the sh… out of song and her voice melted right into the music perfectly. Another favorite was “Out on a Limb” where Teena described being hopelessly in love like no one else ever has. (song below).Why is it that when a star passes, their music is so much more appealing?   There are many in the black community who will immediately state their favorite song by Teena (and Rick James) was “Fire and Desire.” That was a great song but I have never been like everyone else and I have always enjoyed looking deeper for the hidden gems. However, I can’t deny Rick and Teena owned that song and when I heard Johnny Gill and Coco from SWV’s lackluster version I thought it was an insult. That song cannot be sung again by anyone else….sorry.   Teena will be greatly missed and I will keep you posted on any further news.Kevin


  1. Hi Kevin,
    This is a very nice post you have here. It was very enjoyable for me to get a glimpse of the past, especially around the time Teena emerged.
    I will admit that I don’t know too much about what has happened back then, since I’m only 19 and I can only read about music from back in the day, but I will say that I came across Teena Marie’s music about two months ago,(I was in a friend’s house while “Square Biz” started playing on the radio. I tried to get the lyrics but it finished too soon. I was REALLY upset but I persistently searched for it and found it) and I swear, I have never fallen so quickly in love with an artist’s music as I did with Teena’s. Just something about the song really captivated me. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Then I decided to listen to her other songs, and again, I fell in love with each and every one of her tunes. She made REAL MUSIC.
    I also agree with you 100000% on when you mentioned that people will immediately state their favorite song as “Fire and Desire”. I agree that it is an INCREDIBLE song, but I always enjoy searching deeper for those “hidden gems”. I don’t solely listen to the popular songs. And I’ve discovered PLENTY from Teena. There was even an album she released called “Emerald City” and I fell in love with it, but apparently it was a commercial and critical disappointment! I could not believe it. That’s why I never go with what everyone else says. I like to listen to the music and come up with my own opinion of it.
    Sorry for the essay. Thanks for the great post.
    And yes. I feel that Teena was definitely underrated. From what I’ve read, not only was she able to sing beautifully, but she wrote her own songs and played several instruments. That is TALENT!!! I wish I could have met her. I’m glad that she was here to share her wonderful music with us.


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