Singer/songwriter Teena Marie has died. She was 54. Born Mary Christine Brockert in California in March, 1956, the Grammy Award-nominated star found fame as a protegee of late funk legend Rick James.
As Tina Marie Brockert, she landed a role on TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies" as a child, but her career really took off in the mid-1970s when she signed to Motown Records. As a label artist, she came to the attention of James, who produced her debut album "Wild and Peaceful". The album featured Teena Marie's first big hit, "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love".
By her third album, 1980's "Irons in the Fire", Teena Marie was writing and producing all her own tunes. The album featured her first top 40 hit, "Need Your Lovin' ". She followed that success by performing "Fire & Desire" with her mentor James on his cult album "Street Sounds". Her solo Motown hits included "Square Biz" and "It Must be Magic".
She also made music industry history in the early 1980s when she took her record label executives at Motown to court over a contract issue - the battle resulted in new laws that made it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material. She subsequently left Motown and signed to Epic Records, where she recorded the hits "Fix It", "Shadow Boxing", "Lovergirl" and "Out on a Limb".
The record label and Teena Marie parted company in 1990 and the singer/songwriter spend over a decade behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, devoting herself to her daughter Alia Rose. She returned to the limelight in 2004 after signing to rap label Cash Money Records' Classics spin-off label and released her comeback album, "La Dona".
She ended the decade by releasing the acclaimed Congo Square on Stax/Concord Records in 2009. The album featured the song "Can't Last a Day", a duet with Faith Evans.
As WENN went to press there were no details of Teena Marie's death, which was confirmed by manager Mike Gardner.