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12/26/2010

Singer Teena Marie dies at 54

December 26, 2010 |  7:14 pm

Teena Teena Marie, who had hits like "Lovergirl," "Square Biz," and "Fire and Desire" with mentor Rick James, has died. She was 54.

The confirmation came from a publicist, Jasmine Vega, who worked with Teena Marie on her last album. No other details were available.

Teena Marie, known as the "Ivory Queen of Soul," was certainly not the first white act to sing soul music, but she was arguably among the most gifted and respected, and was thoroughly embraced by the black audience.

She was first signed to the legendary Motown label back in 1979, working with James, with whom she would have a long, turbulent but musically magical relationship.

The cover of her album, "Wild and Peaceful," did not feature her image, with Motown apparently fearing backlash by audiences if they found out the songstress with the dynamic voice was white.

But Marie had her first hit, "I'm A Sucker for Your Love," and was on her way to becoming one of R&B's most revered queens. During her tenure with Motown, the singer-songwriter and musician produced passionate love songs and funk jam songs like "Need Your Lovin'," "Behind the Groove" and "Ooh La La La."

Marie had a daughter and had toured in recent years after overcoming an addiction to prescription drugs.

An obituary will follow at latimes.com/obituaries.

--Associated Press

Photo: Teena Marie in 2008. Credit: Associated Press

For the record: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Teena Marie was 19 when she was signed by Motown and was the label's first white artist.

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