Classics: Teena Marie – I Need Your Lovin’ (Motown)
Damn it, I just can’t believe ‘I Need Your Lovin’ has been released in 1980. And, in the meantime, that 36 years of my life (by the time writing these lines) have gone!
Teena Marie, who sadly left us back in 2010 at the age of 54, has left an indelible mark in the history of Soul Music. And, to a wider extend, the history of the modern groove. What an incredible phenomenon she happened to be. Able to sing in a such a way many people initially thought she was of a Black ascendance. But also able to play various instruments, to do arrangements, write lyrics and produce, which is rare enough to be reminded.
We catch her here on the opening cut to her 1980 ‘Irons In The Fire’ album, which she later said was her favorite. Most brilliantly shining on this infectious bassline led jam enlightened with lush strings. Not to mention a jazzy saxophone solo courtesy of Ray C. Woodard, whom some of you might remember of for his contribution to Ozone‘s albums…
Santa Monica, CA native Teena Marie (née Mary Christine Brockert) happened to be much of a child prodigee. Belonging to a family of Portuguese, Italian, Irish and American Indian descent, she got into singing by the time kids learn to speak. Eventually singing Motown classics, she learnt to play piano with the help of two nuns. She then later taught herself the guitar, bass, and congas. This explaining how she would arrange and produce most of her repertoire.
By 1976, she was the leader of a semi professional R&B band which she had assembled. Going for an audition for a film about orphans that was being developed by Motown led her to meet label head Berry Gordy. The latter offering her a record deal as a solo act. From then, Teena Marie recorded a bunch of unreleased songs with various producers. This being how she came to the attention of Rick James who decided to collaborate with her.
This would be the start of a fruitful working relationship between them. Beginning with the release of her debut-album, ‘Wild And Peaceful’, back in 1979. An album which got her to score her very first Top 10 R&B hit with ‘I’m A Sucker For Your Love’, a duet with Rick James. But also to become Soul Train’s first white female guest.
With James unavailable back then, Teena went on to collaborate with Richard Rudolph (Minnie Riperton‘s widower) the year after. The latter producing her second album – ‘Lady T’ – which spawned the memorable ‘Behind The Groove’. She soon after released its follow up, ‘Irons In Fhe Fire’. An album which saw her handling all writing and production herself. Eventually setting up the horn and rhythm arrangements and all backing vocals. Its main track – ‘I Need Your Lovin’ – bringin’ her her first Top 40 hit. And as if it wasn’t already enough, Marie also found time to appear on Rick James‘s ‘Street Songs’ album, duetting on ‘Fire And Desire’ that same year. But also droppin’ backing vocals along with Pattie Brooks on his memorable ‘Give It To Me Baby’.
One of the most prolific artists at the time, Teena came up with ‘It Must Be Magic’ the year after. Probably her strongest one, it featured gems such as ‘Portuguese Love’ and its title track. But also ‘Square Biz’, her then biggest R&B hit. Her first gold record ever, it would ironically be her very last delivery for Motown. Marie getting into legal battle with the label over her contract and disagreements about releasing her new material.
By the fall of 1982, she signed a record deal with Epic. She released her biggest selling album – ‘Starchild’ – 2 years later. And in the meantime ‘Lovergirl’ which stands as her biggest hit, peakin’ at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in Spring 1985.
From then, she progressively lost the scope, eventually releasing a Rock-influenced album – ‘ Emerald City’ – in 1986. A direction which most likely perturbated her fan base. And even though she topped the charts with the lascivious R&Bish ‘Ooo La La La’ in 1988, one could somehow feel something had definitely gone.
In 2004, while she was sleeping in a hotel room, a large picture frame fell and struck her on the head. The blow caused a serious concussion that would cause momentary seizures for the rest of her life. On the afternoon of Dec. 26, 2010, her daughter found her unresponsive at her home in Pasadena, CA. The Los Angeles County coroner performed an autopsy 4 days later. Finding no signs of apparent trauma or a discernible cause of death, he concluded she had died from natural causes…