Most frequently asked questions about Teena Marie. Plus everything else you wanted to know.

PLEASE NOTE: The "Behind the Groove" Website was a personal pastime that has not been updated since 2004. As a result, this FAQ may be a bit outdated.

What is Teena Marie's real name?
  • Teena Marie's birth name is Mary Christine Brockert. "Teena Marie" is a reversal of her first and middle names. Even though "Marie" is not her last name, you'll mostly find her music filed in music stores under "M."

    Where is Teena from and when was she born?

  • Her birthday is March 5th, 1957. She was born in Santa Monica, California and grew up between there and the San Fernando Valley.

    What musical/professional experience did Teena have as a child?

  • She sang with 36-piece big band and even appeared on The Beverly Hillbillies (see below) and a few commercials. She also sang at weddings, including the wedding of Jerry Lewis' son at age 10. Later, as a teenager, Teena formed her own band that played gigs at pizza parlors and did covers of songs by people like Rufus & Chaka Khan.

    What's that funny story of Teena acting up in church?

  • Apparently Teena had a will to sing early on. One day at church when she was 2, she heard the priest's chant ("Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo"). In trying to emulate the priest's sounds, young Teena belted out Harry Belafonte's "Day-O," and her mother hauled her out of the church underneath her coat.

    Didn't Rick James discover Teena and bring her to Motown?

  • No. Teena Marie was already signed to Motown in 1975, three years before she and Rick ever worked together. However, Teena was very much a protegee of Rick's--he taught her a lot about recording and encouraged her to produce her second album without him. Consequently, he produced her first album only; Teena has produced every album since then.

    Who did Rick James turn down in order to produce Teena's debut?

  • Rick declined an offer to produce Diana Ross in order to work with Teena, who he met when he heard her singing and playing piano one day in one of the Motown offices. In fact, "I'm Just a Sucker For Your Love" (Teena's first single) was supposed to have been a Diana Ross song.

    What was Teena doing at Motown between the time she signed (1975) and the release of her first album (1979)?

  • During that time, she was part of a failed Motown TV pilot called Orphanage Children and recorded lots of material with different producers. Most of that material is unreleased, but two of those tunes ("Don't Turn Your Back on Me" from '77 and "Every Little Bit Hurts" from '78) pop up on the Motown compilation I Need Your Lovin': the Very Best of Teena Marie.

    What race is Teena Marie?

  • While many people would say that this question really doesn't matter, the fact that Teena is white is significant. On her first album Wild & Peaceful, Motown didn't feature any pictures of her on the album jacket, afraid that people may not buy the record if they knew she was white. (This is a reversal of many record company practices in the 50s and 60s. They would place pictures of whites or "generic" scenes on the covers of records by black artists because the companies were scared that whites wouldn't buy albums with blacks on the front.)

    Incidentally, Motown felt differently for Teena's second album Lady T, and they plastered a full portrait of her both on the front and back of the jacket for that record.

  • Also, her race is important in this context because of how much it doesn't matter to her fans. Though Teena is loved by her fans of all races, it is especially significant to note how widely she is accepted in the black community as "one of their own" because of her soulful music. She is authentic and real and it shows in her music and voice.

    How many #1 hits did Teena have?

  • "Ooo La La La" is Teena's sole #1 single to date, hitting the peak position on the Billboard R&B chart for the week of April 9, 1988. The song knocked Terence Trent D'Arby's "Wishing Well" out of the #1 spot, and was replaced at #1 on April 16th by Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car."

    Though "Ooo La La La" is her only #1 song (so far), Teena has had several other songs place on the R&B and pop charts, many of them making it into the top 10.

    Did Teena really appear in an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies?

  • Yes. When Teena was 8 years old, she appeared in episode #77, "Doctor Jed Clampett." (On the credits, she's listed as Tina Marie Brockert.) In the show, she does a tap dance audition for Jed, who doesn't know she's dancing, but thinks she has a bad tic!

    What other TV shows has Teena appeared on?

  • Most recently, she appeared on Motown Live and the UPN network's The Parkers to promote her upcoming Black Rain release. She was also interviewed for a segments of (cable channel) VH1's "Before They Were Rock Stars" program as well as the "Where Are They Now" show, episode #16 called "Girl Power" in 1999. And she was featured in '95 on an episode ("Eliminate the Middleman") of New York Undercover, Sinbad's 1st Annual Soul Music Festival for HBO, and has made numerous appearances on Soul Train and BET's musical programs like Video Soul and Video LP.

  • Here are Teena's Soul Train appearances, including episode number, the year of the season, and artist that appeared on the same show:
    #308 w/Rick James, 79-80 season
    #339 w/Tyrone Davis, 80-81 season
    #357 w/Shalamar, 80-81 season
    #439 w/Womack & Womack, 83-84 season
    #465 w/Whodini, 84-85 season
    #571 w/Guy and Junior, 87-88 season
    #652 w/the Rude Boys and LL Cool J, 90-91 season
    #770 w/Warren G. and NIIU, 94-95 season

    Which songs has Teena done music videos for?

  • "Lovergirl," "Robbery," "Lips To Find U," "Work It," "Here's Looking At You," and "Warm As Momma's Oven." Also, Teena appeared in the video for the King Dream Holiday Chorus' "King Holiday" in 1986.

    Was Teena Motown's first white female artist?

  • Teena was not Motown's first white artist; she wasn't even the label's only white artist. However, she was definitely the label's most successful white artist. (By the way, Motown's first white female recording artist was Debbie Dean, who joined the label in 1960.)

    Why did Teena leave Motown?

  • She sued the company in a landmark court case in 1982 for nonpayment of royalties. The lawsuit, and countersuit from Motown, took about 2 years and cost Teena nearly $1 million in legal fees. Teena did not want to record for them anymore due to her bad recording contract (negotiated while she was still a minor, and signed without being allowed benefit of legal counsel) and not getting paid; Motown claimed she owed them one more album. But success was Teena's when Motown backed down and settled with her out of court, knowing that she'd won the case. Teena signed to Epic records where she continued to record (and have plenty of chart and critical success) until she left that company after releasing Ivory in '90.

    Wasn't Motown planning on releasing a 5th album on Teena?

  • Yes. During the legal battles between Teena and the company, Motown proposed putting out all of the previously unreleased material that she recorded for them prior to the release of her first album. The mismatched set of songs were produced by several producers (namely Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise) over a period of about 3 years.

    Catalog numbers were as follows: UK Cat No: STML12198, US Cat No: 6087GL
    Track listing: "You Got the Love"/"You Got Away"/"Oh Love"/"Wasn't I Good to You"/"Why Can't I Get Next to You"/"Every Little Bit Hurts"/"Don't Turn Your Back on Me"/"Love Just Wouldn't Be Right"/"Hey Boy"/"Co-Pilot to Pilot"

    Berry Gordy never issued the material (back in the 70s) because it didn't do her justice, and in hindsight, it may be a good thing that the record never got issued after all, despite the fact that a few tracks have popped up on CDs over the years. "Co-Pilot to Pilot" and "Why Can't I Get Next To You" were included on the CD release of Lady T. It's now out of print, and strangely, the tracks were not marked with any sort of "bonus track" indication -- they were just tacked onto the end as if they were songs originally released with the rest of Lady T in 1980. Two other early tracks, "Don't Turn Your Back on Me" and Brenda Holloway's "Every Little Bit Hurts," are included in I Need Your Lovin': the Very Best of Teena Marie, which is still in print.

    Is there really a law named after Teena?

  • As a result of the Motown lawsuit, there was a "Teena Marie Bill" passed by US Congress which is still in legislation today to protect artists' rights. The bill states that a label cannot legally keep an artist contractually bound if they refuse to release their records. It also establishes that an artist under contract must be paid at least $6,000 per year.

    So if Teena's not on Motown and not on Epic, where is she? Does she still record?

  • Definitely! Teena now records for her own label, Sarai records. She released Passion Play for Sarai in '94, but you might have missed it. Unfortunately, many independent labels don't have the luxury of wide distribution or large promotion budgets like the majors do. Teena is planning on releasing a new album though, called Black Rain. Not sure about the release date, but whenever it's finally released, you'll hear about it on these pages.

    Were Teena and Rick James really an item?

  • Yep, but we knew it all along, right? ;-D Teena finally fessed up on a 1999 interview with VH1 (on the "Where Are They Now" episode, not the "Before They Were Rock Stars" program) that she and the "king of punk funk" did have more than just a musical love affair. Rick confirmed the fact too.

    What duets have Teena and Rick James recorded together?

  • Of course, their most famous collaboration is "Fire and Desire," originally released on James' 1981 Street Songs album. The following year (1982) they released the equally beautiful "Happy," featured on James' Throwin' Down LP.

    When Teena left Motown and sued them later in '82 (see above) and Rick stayed on the label, Motown legally blocked them from recording together. It wouldn't be until Teena's 1988 Epic release Naked to the World that Rick and Teena would release any more collaborations. They included the ballad "Once and Future Dream" and the up-tempo "Call Me (I Got Yo Number)."

    And while many people forget to cite this song as a Teena/Rick duet (maybe because it's not a ballad), Teena's first single, "I'm a Sucker For Your Love," from her debut album was the very first duet between the two.

    Didn't Teena have a near-death accident during one of her shows?

  • Yes. During her tour for Naked to the World (1988), Teena was performing "Ooo La La La" at a show in Dallas and walked to the side of the stage. She didn't fall off, but through a hole in the stage that wasn't covered. A security guard grabbed her hand in time to prevent her from plummetting eight feet down. But she was knocked unconscious, broke several ribs, and took six months to recover in the hospital.

    Aren't there two Teena Maries who sing?

  • No. Many may get confused between "Lady T" Teena and the Brazillian jazz songstress named Tania Maria. Both are different. And while we're on names, Kelly Marie, the disco singer from the late 70s, is not Teena's sister.

    What music awards has Teena been nominated for?

  • She was nominated for Best R&B Female Grammy awards for the songs "Lovergirl" (1985) and "Ooh La La La" (1988). She was also nominated for the award in '81 for the It Must Be Magic album. However, she lost the '85 nomination to Aretha Franklin, and the '81 nomination to either Aretha or Stephanie Mills.

    Who are some of Teena's musical influences?

  • They include, but are not limited to, Sarah Vaughn (Teena chose "Sarah" as her confirmation name in tribute to Ms. Vaughn), Nancy Wilson, Lena Horne, Minnie Riperton, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Motown, Aretha Franklin, the Supremes, . . ..

    What are some of the "pet names" that people have dubbed Teena?

  • The Ivory Queen of Soul, vanilla child, Lady Tee, Casper (from her black godmother), "honorary sister," Lil' Bit, White Chocolate, Motown's Soulful Secret, . . ..

    Who are some of the artists Teena has toured with?

  • Rick James, Prince, GQ, Shaun Cassidy

    Thanks to Greg Porras for this pic I'm a new fan. There are so many Teena CDs to choose from. Which should I start with?

  • I always recommend greatest hits compilations for anyone starting a collection on any artist. In the case of Teena compilations, for her early material on Motown, the best CD to get is I Need Your Lovin': the Very Best of Teena Marie. With the exception of "Aladdin's Lamp," this compilation features all of Teena's "big ones" from that time in their full-length formats (which the other Motown comps don't do). For the Epic-label material, go for the one simply titled Greatest Hits. (Or you can go for Lovergirl: The Teena Marie Story which goes one step further with quality packaging (photos and liner notes). But it's missing essential uptempo hits like "Here's Looking at You" and "Work It.") The I Need Your Lovin' (Motown) and Greatest Hits (Epic) discs are two good places to start if you're a brand new Teena listener or just want to jump-start your collection.

    What did Ike Turner have to say about Teena?

  • In 1984, during "Lovergirl"'s success, Ike jokingly suggested that they do an Ike and Teena tour together.

    More info to come? BTG is now an archival site.

    Information for this F.A.Q. section provided by Michael Wilding, Sammi Bogues, Susan Ferguson, Sara Stromseth, Greg Porras, Cyrus Bowman and Webmistress Melissa A. Weber.

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