By Ronald K. Mc Kinley
Mary Christine Brockert, known as Teena Marie, was born in Santa Monica and spent her early childhood in Mission Hills. Later she moved with her family to Venice to live in a large house on Nowita Court.
Born on March 5, 1956 she was raised in Qakwood, nick-named “ghost town” because you go in alive, you come out a ghost. Brockert attended Venice High School where she joined the Summer Dance Production, and appeared in the musical “The Music Man.” She graduated in 1974.
Her distinctive soulful vocals caused listeners to believe she was African-American. Success in R&B and Soul earned her the title Ivory Queen of Soul.
She was the fourth of five children born to a construction worker, Thomas Leslie Brockert, and a homemaker Mary Anne. She was Portuguese, Italian, Irish and Native American.
Brockert took to singing naturally, developing a fondness for singing the songs of Motown.
Her parents listened to jazz and popular music, and her parents began sending her out on auditions when she was eight years old. She got her first acting role on “ The Beverly Hillbillies,” that aired October 21, 1964. She sang at the wedding of Jerry Lewis’s son when she was ten years old.
She learned to play piano under the tutelage of two nuns, as she was raised in a Roman Catholic household. She also played rhythm guitar, keyboards and congas. Her first band was formed with her younger brother Anthony, and a cousin.
In 1976 she was introduced to Motown staff producer of the Jackson 5, Hal Davis. This lead to an audition for a film about orphans being developed by Motown. The film failed, but Berry Gordy decided to sign her as a solo act.
Rick James, also on the label, turned down producing Diana Ross to work with Brockert. Her debut album “Wild and Peaceful” scored Brockert her first R&B hit “I’m a Sucker for Your Love” (#8 on the Black Singles Chart). Lady T was the name coined by Rick James.
There was no picture of her on the album. Many radio programmers assumed she was Black.
This changed when she performed her debut hit with James on Soul Train in 1979; she was the show’s first white female guest. She appeared eight more times, more than any other white act.
In 1980, on her second album, “Lady T,” her portrait appears on the cover. Also in 1980, she released her third LP “Irons in the Fire,” dedicated to her father. She handled all the writing and production, including horn arrangements and backing vocals, something rare at the time for female artists.
She had her first top 40 hit with the single “I Need Your Loving” (#37, #9 Black Singles Chart).
In 1981 she released “It Must be Magic” (#2 Black Albums Chart) her first gold record, which included her biggest R&B hit “Square Biz” (#3 Black Singles Chart).
In 1982 Brockert got into a battle with Berry Gordy over her contract. A lawsuit resulted in the “The Brockert Initiative,” which made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material for that artist.
She left Motown as the label’s most successful white solo act. Because of her, artists are able to move to another label and not be held back by an nonsupporting one.
In 1984 she released her biggest-selling album “Starchild.” It contained her biggest hit “Lovergirl,” released by Epic Records. It rose to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
She never married, but gave birth to daughter Alia Rose in 1991, they can be seen on YouTube singing together.
She was Godmother to Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona Gaye, and she also cared for Rick James’ son Rick Jr.
Lenny Kravitz posted a video in which he said Brockert had taken him into her home when he was struggling early in his career.
She suffered a Grand mal seizure a month before her death. Close friends said she suffered other seizures. She broke two ribs with the grand mal. She stopped taking Diazepam, for the seizures, because of the side affects, and took herbal medicines instead. She was so frightened of having another seizure when she was alone that she would have someone sleep with her at night.
The Saturday night of the day before her death nothing seemed unusual. Someone slept next to her.
Her daughter checked in with her around 1 PM Sunday afternoon. At 3 PM her daughter checked in again but could not wake her. She died in her sleep of natural causes according to the coroner.
She died the day after Christmas 2010. She was 54 years old.