Teena Marie (March 5, 1956 – December 26, 2010)
Born Mary Christine Brockert, her childhood nickname was Tina. She was also known as Lady T, a nickname given to her by her friend and collaborator Rick James.
At 8, she landed a role on the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies (see video below). At 10, she sang at the wedding of Jerry Lewis’ son.
In 1976, she landed an audition for a Motown film about orphans. The film was scrapped by Motown label boss Berry Gordy, but she wasn’t; he signed her as a solo artist. Two years into recording primarily unreleased material, she caught the attention of Rick James. This affiliation resulted in her 1979 debut album, Wild and Peaceful. This album did not feature Brockert on the cover and with her voice, many people believed her to be black. Imagine everyone’s surprise when she and James performed their duet I’m a Sucker for Your Love on Soul Train in 1979. Brockert was Soul Train‘s first white female guest. She went on to appear eight more times, more than any other white artist.
She released two more albums with Motown before a 1982 legal battle. By the fall of that year, she had signed with Epic Records and established a publishing company, Midnight Magnet. She stayed with Epic until 1990. Brockert continued performing, recording and acting right up until her death. In fact, her final CD, her 14th, was unfinished at the time of her death and was completed by her daughter and was released in January 2013 and entitled Beautiful. In addition, at the time of her death, Brockert was working on her memoirs.
In 2004, while asleep in a hotel room, a large picture frame fell off the wall, struck her in the head and caused a concussion that resulted in seizures for the rest of her life. On December 26, 2010, Brockert’s daughter found her unresponsive at her Pasadena home. Her December 30 autopsy concluded she had died of natural causes, as it was reported she had suffered a Grand Mal seizure one month prior to her death.