I’ve known my daddy to leave town and stay overnight for three events: 1. His yearly trips to Las Vegas, NV, 2. My sister’s wedding, and 3. A Rick James concert in Indianapolis. As my father recalls, I was in utero when he and my mom took that 2-hour drive south for the Rick James show. As a toddler, I rocked my mom’s boots to achieve the Street Songs look. I have learned many things from my father. I understood credit default swaps by likening them to craps. Anyone splitting anything higher than a pair of eights is stupid, selfish, or both. The musical legacy my father passed on to me was a great love for Morris Day and The Time and the aforementioned Rick James. The latter musical gift meant that I eventually became fluent in all things Teena Marie. I was hanging out in Black Twitter when the news hit my timeline. (It was quite some time before CNN or HuffPo confirmed, by the way.) Our remembrance of Teena Marie’s life began right there–electronically, collectively.
Perhaps my mourning leads to more hyperbole than usual, but the term “blue-eyed soul” does not apply to Teena Marie. Hall & Oates? Yes. Lisa Stansfield? Sure. Amy Winehouse? Yep. But Teena Marie? Nope. I’m not the one to deny that ‘hood passes have been issued and/or revoked–because they have. But Teena Marie was never issued one. ‘Hood passes are for those just passing through, for those appropriating aspects of black culture for a hit or two, in search of some “street cred” and nothing more but a side-eye from the natives. Not Teena Marie. Teena Marie lived there, with us, and she never left. (Which is probably why some of my white readers–if I have any–may have had to employ Google by the end of my first paragraph. There are no hyperlinks to biographies in this entry, you either know or you don’t.) Square biz.
I don’t want to reduce Teena Marie to the seeming disparity between how she looked and how she sounded or her cultural tastes. This morning I celebrate the life of an incredible singer and musician whose work provided the background music for my childhood. In my mind, there are few more vivid images than me rolling through Fort Weezy in the passenger’s seat of Daddy’s Seville with Rick and Teena in the tapedeck. I don’t pour out a lil liquor for anybody, but you best believe some libations will be spilled in honor of one Miss Lady T. I will find a party somewhere in this great city where the DJ will play a Teena Marie set as I two-step my ass off.
I look forward to seeing how the BET Awards will honor her. Those jokers have a six-month head start. They better get it right. We will miss her terribly.