Soul singer Teena Marie, known for hits like “Lovergirl” and “Square Biz,” passed away on Saturday night, according to CNN. She was 54. Her daughter found her after she had died in sleep, her manager said.
No cause of death has been released, but her publicist did mention that Marie suffered a grand mal seizure a month ago which she was still recovering from.
Marie carved out a space for herself among the pantheon of predominately black artists in the R&B scene with her spunky, soulful voice. She debuted in 1979 on the storied Motown label with Wild and Peaceful, which featured a duet with fellow funkster Rick James, with whom she would go on to have a passionate yet turbulent professional and personal relationship. The album artwork didn’t feature a picture of Marie, so many radio programmers assumed the singer with the high-powered pipes was black.
However, Marie’s talents soon made her race irrelevant to fans, and she went on to knock out records such as Lady T and Irons in the Fire. However, by the time she cranked out her final album for the label, It Must Be Magic, her relationship with Motown had soured, and she launched a landmark legal battle with the company which resulted in the “Teena Marie Law,” which mandates that a label cannot keep an artist under contract with releasing his or her music.
She switched to Epic records in 1983 and put out a slew of albums, including Robbery, Emerald City, Naked to the World and Starchild, which included her biggest chart-topper, “Lovergirl.”
Marie left Epic in the early ’90s and released an album on her own label before joining Cash Money Records. She released La Dona in 2004 and Sapphire in 2006 before heading to iconic soul label, Stax, for 2009’s Congo Square.
Marie’s influence is felt among many of today’s R&B hitmakers, including Mary J. Blige who tweeted after her death that Marie, “inspired me vocally as a child. Her songs I sang in the mirror with a hair brush. I’m so hurt. Rest in peace Teena Mari. My Love love for u is forever.”
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