They called her the “Vanilla Child,” the Ivory Queen of Soul, Lady T – she was the fire that stoked Rick James’ desire. But the world knew her best as Teena Marie – and just last night fans around the world were shocked to learn that she passed away over the holiday weekend.

Details are still unclear, but she according to The Root, she had recently suffered from seizures, but her death came as a surprise to everyone. Her beautiful daughter Alia Rose had the tragic task of finding her mother, which is especially heartbreaking to anyone who recently watched Teena Marie’s Unsung on TV One. She was especially close to her daughter, and in later years, they sang together.

Teena Marie was a tough, smart woman with a huge voice and striking beauty. She was proud that she wrote, produced, sang and arranged all her own music. She was strong enough to deal with Rick James in the peak days of his stardom, and she matched him on the mic, note for note. Her legal battle with Motown resulted in the Teena Marie Law, whereby “a label cannot keep an artist under contract with releasing his or her music.” And she released album after album of blue-eyed soul music, studded with so many hits and classic jams, it’s hard to know where to begin. But here are my top five you-gotta-know-these Teena Marie jams.


Teena’s biggest solo hit revealed her skills as a musician, a singer, and a writer. 80’s girl power at it’s best!

Square Biz

Everybody get up!! Square Biz remains the JAM to this day. Teena’s voice was so clear, pure, strong and undeniable. Lady T’s rap remains awesome and influential to this day – ask Missy Elliott about that! And not to mention, what other rapper ever namedropped Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni in that time? Nobody but the Vanilla Child. Square, square biz FTW!

I Need Your Lovin’

This was Teena’s first top 40 hit, and it has that late 70’s-early 80’s sound I LOVE. A bassline that won’t quit and a harmony-saturated chorus made for twirling around under the twinkling lights of a roller rink at night. And that’s the bottom line.

Ooh La La La

Shoutout to Lauryn Hill and the Fugees for making Teena’s hook part of hip hop history. Ooh La La La remains one of my absolute favorites. It’s a perennially perfect “quiet storm” jam.

Fire and Desire

Rick James’ Street Songs is a CLASSIC album, and Fire and Desire captures Rick at his most tender and soulful. And Teena’s vocals are just on a whole nother level. No wonder they called her the ivory queen of soul!

Those are my top 5 Teena Marie jams – there were so many others I could have included…but those were the ones that made the biggest impact on me. What’s missing from the list? What are your favorite Teena Marie songs and memories? Share with me, bellas. Let’s remember and celebrate the musical legacy of Lady T today.

RIP, Teena Marie. Your music will always live on!

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Maddy says:
December 27, 2010, 12:08 pm
This is a wonderful tribute. Lovergirl is still my favorite and really brings me back.... RIP Teena Marie...
Moni says:
December 27, 2010, 12:10 pm
Hey Bella! My absolute favorite songs are: "Portuguese Love", "If I Were A Bell" and "Out On A Limb". I'll say this much, Heaven has a heck of a concert going on! One more musical angel to add to the set. RIP Lady T!
Moni says:
December 27, 2010, 12:11 pm
Oh, I forgot one more! "Can It Be Love"!!!
Clarabela says:
December 27, 2010, 12:35 pm
It is hard to pick just one of her songs and call it my favorite, but Fire & Desire is an incredible song. Her voice was (still is) incredible!
JP says:
December 27, 2010, 1:14 pm
This one hit my soul HARD! I've always stanned for Teena. Hard to believe that some of the greatest soul music of the last 25 years came from a little white woman named Mary Brockert. If I had to pick some favorites they'd be "Aladdin's Lamp", "Casanova Brown", and "My Dear Mr. Gaye". We lost a legend. RIP Miss Lady T!
Niki says:
December 27, 2010, 1:42 pm
"Portuguese Love", "If I Were A Bell", "Deja Vu", "Fire & Desire", "Out On A Limb"
Sabrina R Perkins says:
December 27, 2010, 1:55 pm
Gurllllll, can't nobody blow like Teena Marie! I can't beleive she's really gone! New Orleans is mourning her death for real cause NOBODY love Teena like New Orleans.
nicole says:
December 27, 2010, 2:03 pm
Great post Afrobella. Teena had a great voice. I remember my mom listening to her music in the 80's. Her voice was so emotional and strong. Out on a limb is beautiful and dramatic. Thanks again for the tribute post. My heart goes out to her daughter.
Vivrant Thang says:
December 27, 2010, 3:40 pm
This is a beautiful tribute. I'm still in shock over this one. You just never know the day or the hour. We need to celebrate these artists while they are here. I am so glad to have seen her perform last at that epic Essence Music Fest a couple years ago. She was amazing. Just her in all white with that guitar. I'd like to think that's how she is performing up there right now. She is joining a hell of a lineup. My faves are "Work It" "Out on A Limb" "Young Love" "Behind the Groove" and If I Were a Bell."
NSelah says:
December 27, 2010, 4:49 pm
I am still shocked. May Teena rest in peace and may God pass on many blessings to her daughter and family!
momof3girlz says:
December 27, 2010, 5:55 pm
RIP Teena Marie! Wishing her daughter and her family strength, peace, and love, during this difficult time.
Stephanie says:
December 28, 2010, 1:14 am
I still can not believe that she is no longer with us, Teena Marie is one of my favorite artist,and one hell of a song writer, her music just moved me, the lyrics and the arrangement, she just took your soul to another place; Portuguese Love, Young Love, Where's California, Cupid is a Real Straight Shooter, Deja Vu, Don't Turn Your Back On Me, How Can You Resist This, Yes Indeed, Out On a Limb, Casanova Brown...Too many to count. "you are the seed and the grain of every harvest, planted in love by a being far beyond this what can it be? Such a sweet yet painful feeling come over me Knowing this can never be Do I love you? Yes Indeed..." RIP Lady T, my soul aches.
Stephanie says:
December 28, 2010, 1:22 am
I forgot to also add "You Make Love In Spring Time" the my list above.
Starchild says:
December 28, 2010, 10:49 am
"Out on a Limb." Beautiful, beautiful lyrics.
Alicia says:
December 28, 2010, 11:17 am
Teena was truly diva ahead of her time. We will all miss her.
Roz says:
December 28, 2010, 11:28 am
Great post, Afrobella. 'Cassanova Brown,' 'If I Were A Bell,' 'Portuguese Love,' and really anything Lady Tee sang was beautiful. May her family, friends, and fans find peace during this difficult time.
Angela says:
December 28, 2010, 2:26 pm
My favorite is "Out on a Limb", close second is "Fire & Desire".
Tina says:
December 28, 2010, 3:38 pm
'Romantica.' Heartwrenching. RIP both of you.
pets says:
December 28, 2010, 4:21 pm
RIP Teena Marie. Great post Bella.
Yolanda says:
December 28, 2010, 6:48 pm
So, so underrated she was! We will miss your unique artistry. You were one of a kind!
lika b says:
December 28, 2010, 7:30 pm
i must co-sign on the underrated comment. she put artists a third of her age to SHAME. her last CD, "congo square" was just as good as her earlier work. "portuguese love", "out on a limb" and "black cool" are my faves.
destiny w says:
December 28, 2010, 8:03 pm
i'd have to say "portugese love" and "out on a limb."
Lee says:
December 28, 2010, 10:08 pm
So sad to hear this news. I loved Lady T. Too many jams to pick just one, but Portuguese Love, Lovergirl and Out on a Limb were among the faves. She was definitely underrated. How many artists can write, produce, play and sing like crazy? Rest in Peace, Teena Marie.
M.C. says:
December 29, 2010, 9:38 am
Bella, lots of people have noted her passing with sadness, but when I saw your title in my RSS reader, I knew I wanted to read what you had to say. And I'm so glad I did. Kudos on one of the best tributes out there to a deserving and beloved artist.
Lisa says:
December 29, 2010, 2:14 pm
I gotta agree with the underrated part, too. I have always loved EVERYTHING put out by this woman, but I am jammin just as hard to all the cuts on Congo Square as I was jammin back in the 80's and 90's with her earlier soulful jams. Teena, my heart aches, but I am eternally thankful for the soulful gift of your voice that you left behind. Rest in Peace Teena!
Green Afro Diva says:
December 30, 2010, 1:56 pm
a Truly underrated artist. My favorite songs are out on a limg, dear lover, Behind the groove and lovergirl. RIP Lady T
paintgurl40 says:
December 31, 2010, 11:30 am
It broke my heart when I heard that she passed...I loved ALL of her songs, and now she's up in heaven playing with the best!RIP TEENA!
Jan says:
January 1, 2011, 10:37 am
Lady T "can not and will not" ever be replaced. She, in fact is the only white woman on the face of the planet, who truly had soul. Her soul was natural not produced, trained or fake. But real as real can get!!! I love her music to the bone!!!! God her rest soulful soul!!!! Love, Peace and Happiness to her daughter because god is by her side this very moment!!!
Sherrie says:
January 1, 2011, 11:50 pm
JoeJoe or whatever your name is. You've just proved yourself a real butt-hole, if you can't say something nice about a great entertainer who has just died tragically, you need to keep your rotten thoughts to yourself. Apparently you must have tried to mac on her back in the day and was turned down and so now you're used this forum to sprew your childish bitterness! Your ignorant comment was uncalled for and so not wanted on this site. Go find a hole and cover yourself before the stench fills the air--yuck!
bella says:
January 2, 2011, 12:44 am
JoeJoe also had a spam e mail site as his link, so I marked him as such. That negativity has no place here. Thanks for calling it to my attention Sherrie! The things some people find time for on New Year's Day.... Happy New Year to you. And RIP Teena Marie!
Freddie says:
April 27, 2011, 11:21 pm
I was a big fan of Teena Marie and really didn't know it until it was too late, i knew she song Square Biz which drew me to her, but since her passing i found out that song a lot of song that i loved like behind the groove, Oh la la la, work it, and the whole congo square album. My heart still hurts knowing that her soulful voice won't be putting out any new music. She left us a catalog of songs to touch every emotion when your not feeling quite right in the day, you throw on one of her classic, and your back in the right frame of mind. Miss you Teena Marie aka Lady T, god bless your soulful daughter who has pipes like her mother.