Teena Marie, who broke barriers as the first successful white act in Motown history, died Sunday. She was 54. Teena Marie was known as the “Ivory Queen of Soul” because of her success in soul music, where her expressive voice and uplifting energy made her a star.
Teena Marie worked with funk legend Rick James throughout her musical career. Marie signed to Motown in 1979, at just 19 years old, and scored a hit single in “I’m A Sucker For Your Love” off of her first Motown release, Wild and Peaceful. The album did not feature a picture of Teena Marie on the cover, as Motown reportedly feared a negative reaction from audiences because the singer was white.
However, Teena Marie would soon earn the respect of a wide musical audience of all colors, with her versatility and soulful voice. The singer-songwriter’s passion produced hits such as “Fire and Desire” and “Lovergirl” and explored various genres, including funk, soul and R&B.
Teena Marie – Lovergirl