Growing up in Cleveland, I can remember being in that back room with all the children, late night, playing cards, watching TV, and getting into the regular mischief that kids whose parents couldn’t afford a babysitter would get into while the adults got their groove on the front room in the mist of zigzags, album covers, and strong drinks. I remember the first time I heard Teena Marie, I was on one of my “sneak and peeks” to see how adults get their party on, and remember hearing “Fire and Desire,” red light on, smoke in the air, and some dude slow dancing with my momma.
As a child I had always had a musical ear because on the weekend my mother was like a real DJ and soul food chef. What I instantly remember about Teena Marie is that she had such a sweet, unique and distinct voice. Songs like “Lovergirl,” “I’m Just a Sucker For Your Love,” and “Square Biz” are those songs you just know, enjoy, and sing along automatically. I also would remiss if I didn’t mention she also displayed some really fresh rhymes on “Square Biz” as well, and in 1981 was played right next to “Rappers Delight,” “Planet Rock,” and Run-DMC. Teena Marie was in every parent’s record collection, and a part of the beginning consciousness of Hip Hop.
Today, The Fugee’s should get back together because of this loss. It was their interpolation of Teena Marie’s “Oh-La-La-La” over Salaam Remi’s production, which was the jump off point, and the first single off The Score, The Fugee’s most important and last album together. “We used be number 10-Now we permanent 1,” the first line from Wyclef on this seminal record, is a classic. Right now, you can go to any club in the world, and at 1 am, at the height of the party, you can drop “Fu-Gee-La,” and you might as well call the fire marshall and just stand back and watch the magic. If you really want to tear the roof off, drop “Square Biz” afterwards and you’ll witness how classic songs can make someone who has left us in the physical become eternal.
As we mourn and reflect on our iconic musical artists who make their transitions out of this world, let’s give thanks for Lady T, her musical legacy, and her vast and impressive catalog.
RIP Teena Marie
written by TAJ