The Ivory Queen of Soul, Teena Marie, is reflecting on the greatest moments of her life.
Teena catapulted to stardom with her debut album Wild and Peaceful in 1979, and now she’s back with Conga Square. The album features her soulfully watery voice backed by slow to mid-tempo melodies, and there are guest appearances by Mc Lyte, Howard Hewitt and Faith Evans.
Over the years, we’ve seen that Teena has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. Although, she’s lead a public life we’ve always wanted to know more about the woman who sang hits like the sultry “Fire and Desire” and jazzier “Square Biz.” Now, TV One is answering that call in their TV series “Unsung.”
Her episode, slated to premiere November 1, will chronicle the stories behind her amazing career, which broke down racial barriers in R&B music. As you know, she got her star at Motown, which opened her up to a world where meeting her idols was an everyday occurrence.
“I met Diana Ross in the hall way of Motown. I was stuck on stupid, and couldn’t talk. I held Sarah Vaughn’s shoes for her on the side of the stage at [an] after party for the Grammy’s,” Teena reminisced. “I shared the stage with the Queen of Soul Ms. Aretha Franklin on numerous occasions. She is my greatest influence in R&B. I sang with Ella Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones, in a tribute to Stevie Wonder at the 1981 Grammys.”
Soon, Teena found her way from the hallways and backstage areas into a studio where she began recording tracks that would become hits. And even the rush of meeting musical greats, including Smokey Robison, didn’t compare to excitement she felt hearing herself sing.
“The first time I heard myself on the radio I was with my little sister Jill Jones,” said Teena. “We were riding down Franklin Ave. in Hollywood in my blue Vega. ‘Sucker For Your Love’ came on and we started screaming, “That’s me,” “That’s you!” I had to pull the car over. It was crazy!”
But as her career progressed, Teena wasn’t just meeting R&B royalty, she had become it, too. Her velvety voice was packing fans into concert halls all over the world, and her friend, one-time lover, and mentor, Rick James was right there beside her.
“We broke Elvis Presley’s records in concert attendance. We broke The Rolling Stones records in concert sales,” she said while recalling a 1981 tour she did with Rick. “They had to fly us into the shows by helicopter because there were over 100,000 people there. They looked like ants, and it was pretty overwhelming for a little unassuming girl from Venice Beach, California.”
Her achievements weren’t just reflected in her album sales, though. After a while her peers awarded her for all the outstanding work she’d produced, an honor that topped all other accolades she’d received until that point.
“I got a lifetime achievement award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in September 2008. I was inducted the same night as Chaka Khan and The Whispers,” she said. “It was a dream come true. Of all my awards, I cherish that the most.
Still, the biggest moment of Teena’s life wasn’t had on stage performing for a crowd of fans and colleagues. Instead she had it on Christmas Day in a hospital.
“My #1 greatest moment, by far, is the day I gave birth to my daughter, Alia Rose Noelle. I was in labor for three days and hard labor for 17 hours,” Teena told S2S. “Her due date was December 25 and she arrived on that day. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was overwhelmed by God’s greatest miracle.”
To learn more about The Ivory Queen of Soul and why she’s had such a huge impact on music today, watch “Unsung” when it airs November 1 at 8 p.m. EST on TV One.
– Sonya Eskridge
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