The unexpected loss of singer Teena Marie at age 54, is hitting R&B fans hard today. Some hits, from this great ivory queen of soul, brings back wonderful summertime memories of my teen years. While she’s gone far too soon, she left behind an impressive body of work that spanned several eras in music.
As we all send our condolences to Teena Marie’s friends, family, and fans, here’s a list of five essential tunes from throughout her career. Listen and remember how “real” music used to feel.
“Fire and Desire” (1980)
A year after releasing her debut album on a division of Motown Records, Marie cut this romantic duet with mentor Rick James. He runs the show until her passionate lead vocals come in around the 4:00 mark. After that, this is Teena Marie’s song all the way.
“Square Biz” (1981)
“Everybody get up!” Marie shouts at the start of one of her first major hits as a solo artist. Listening to the rest of the unstoppable upbeat tune without grooving along as she commands is simply impossible. And don’t miss her sassy rap verse at the end!
As the ’80s went on, Marie’s career kept getting bigger. Signing to pop powerhouse Epic Records — home of another famous Motown alum, Michael Jackson — she released a string of successful singles. Among them was this sexy R&B-funk-rock jam, which quickly became her signature song.
“Ooh La La La” (1988)
This breezy ballad pairs Marie’s exquisite wail with a smooth saxophone part. Eight years after it first became a hit, “Ooh La La La” returned to the airwaves when the Fugees sampled it for the chorus of their “Fu-Gee-La.” It was just one more sign of Lady T’s continued relevance.
“I’m Still in Love” (2004)
Although she’s best remembered for her output in earlier decades, Marie mounted a comeback in the 2000s, recording three albums with New Orleans rap label Cash Money Records. This single, a loose fashioning of Al Green’s classic “I’m Still in Love With You,” proved she could play the role of a streetwise contemporary R&B star quite convincingly.