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All Hail the (Ivory) Queen: Five of Teena Marie's finest videos in advance of Grammy Museum tribute

February 22, 2011 | 10:55 am

Last December, Teena Marie passed away at the age of 54. At the time, Reed Johnson of The Times wrote this tribute to the R&B star and protegee of Rick James. On Tuesday night, the Grammy Museum will honor the singer born Mary Brockert with "Wild and Peaceful: a Tribute to Teena Marie." The evening will feature a panel with R&B singer Lalah Hathaway, keyboardist George Duke, singer-songwriter Shanice Wilson, music director Doug Grigsby, songwriter Scott Galloway and Teena Marie's daughter Alia Rose. Hathaway and Wilson, along with other special guests, are expected to  perform.

In advance of the tribute, here's a video memorial featuring some of the Santa Monica-raised singer's finest moments.

Teena Marie - "The Lovergirl"

Teena Marie's biggest hit arrived at a time when her career seemed to be at a low ebb. Following the general disappointment that was "Robbery," 1984's "Lovergirl" found Marie strapping on a guitar and delivering some fierce guitar shredding (well, at least she did a mean air guitar in the video). Then as now, pop singers were expected to rely on outside songwriting and production assistance, but like most of her material recorded after 1980, she was the writer, producer and performer.

Teena Marie - "I Need Your Lovin'"

There's little to say that the Soul Train dancers can't say more eloquently. Teena Marie knew how to make R&B with deep groove and soul, and as the video above attests, she had a commanding and graceful stage presence. With disco waning, Teena Marie struck with one of 1980's biggest hits, "I Need Your Lovin," her first single to crack the top 40 on the Pop charts.  

Teena Marie - "Square Biz"

The biggest single from her final album on Motown, 1981's "It Must Be Magic," Teena Marie popularized the phrase "Square Biz," which was the "real talk" of its day. With hip-hop growing in popularity, Teena Marie delivered one of the first raps (male or female) to appear on a major label, with some her thunder sadly stolen by Blondie's Deborah Harry, who released "Rapture" earlier that year. Bonus points also awarded (or forfeited?) for being the sample source for the Firm's "Firm Biz."

Teena Marie-"Lead Me On"

It's possible, perhaps, to dislike this Teena Marie and Giorgio Moroder team-up, which appeared on the "Top Gun" soundtrack, but anyone who does shouldn't be trusted. Granted, "Lead Me On" veers dangerously close to cheesy '80s soundtrack rock (a la "I Need a Hero"), but Marie managed to do her own funky take on a generic sound. The closest that Tom Cruise will ever get to Heat Wave.

Teena Marie-"Ooh La La La"

Best known to younger generations as the inspiration for the hook for the Fugees' "Fugee-La," "Ooh La La La" was a massive hit for Marie in her own right -- reaching No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles charts. While most of her bigger hits were uptempo dance numbers, "Ooh La La La," from 1988's platinum-selling "Naked to the World," demonstrated her versatility and sustained ability to write a timeless hook -- the kind that will be celebrated Tuesday, and for many years to come.

--Jeff Weiss