The music world lost another great unsung icon over the weekend, as R&B singer Teena Marie passed away on Sunday (December 26) at the age of 54. Though perhaps not quite a household name, Marie was a titan in the R&B universe thanks to her deep and eclectic body of work that stretched over several decades. Dozens of tributes have already poured in from the likes of Diddy, Common, Gamble & Huff and Mary J. Blige, not only because they admired and respected her work but also because Marie was a consummate collaborator who worked with a number of different artists and always made the work infinitely better.
Marie got her start as one of Rick James’ protegés, and her voice can be heard prominently on a number of James recordings (most notably on his 1981 single “Fire and Desire”). She quickly found a niche for herself, as not only was she an excellent performer with a killer voice but also a skilled songwriter and arranger. In fact, she wrote, produced, arranged and performed just about every note on Irons in the Fire, her definitive 1980 album that featured the huge hit “I Need Your Lovin.”
Because of her vast skill set, it was only natural that she was sought after as a collaborator even as she continued to create music for herself. In addition to James, Marie worked with the likes of Faith Evans, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Domino, Eve, Smokey Robinson, Kurupt, Common and Birdman, to name just a few. (The Birdman collaboration was particularly fruitful, as Marie was a member of Cash Money Records for a while.) Her tough demeanor and do-it-yourself attitude clearly made her an inspiration to female rappers and R&B upstarts, and it was no mystery why. Not only will Marie fans mourn her passing, but other artists have definitely lost one of the great voices and key collaborators in modern music.
What’s your favorite Teena Marie collaboration? Let us know in the comments!