There are certain news stories that hit Gamma squarely in the gut. You know, that break down and cry like the situation happened to you or someone you know. The Susan Smith story, the Columbine shootings, the death of a former co-worker's 4-year old daughter, and the death of two children in my town in a house fire had me wailing like a child (9-11 is a given so no need to mention). This does not mean that other tragedies did not touch my soul, it just means that for whatever reason, these stories have affected me disproportionally more than most news stories. And when I say affected, I mean crying, trying to make sense of it all and withdrawing into myself so I could process it affected. This weekend, I added another -- the sudden and unexpected death of Teena Marie, Lady T.
If you follow (and pay attention) to me on Twitter, then you know that Lady T. is and always will be one of my "go-to-musicians" when I'm having a bad day on the job, when I'm happy, or just when I want to sing. I have been a fan of hers since I first heard her in 1979. It is no secret that I love good music but there are three ladies that have always touched something way down deep and had me singing at the top of my out-of-tune lungs with emotion -- Phyllis Hyman, Minnie Riperton, and Teena Marie. Unfortunately, all three of them are no longer with us, but their music will live forever in my heart, my CD collection, and my Blip and GrooveShark playlists.
There have been many stories written about Teena's rise to fame, her being the only white R&B singer that the Black community embraced, yada yada yada. But to me, she was always just Teena, the lady with the voice. Some of her songs bring back memories. I will go to my grave believing that my daughter was conceived on Portuguese Love (helped by some 151 piña coladas that our friend Brian made when he returned from Germany after a stint in the Air Force). Fire & Desire will always take me back to the night my BFF at the time and I mourned the ending of my marriage - complete with hair brushes as mics (I had Teena's part). Oooh La La La, although released much earlier, will always make me think of the Love of My Life -- the first man I truly and completely loved. One of her more recent songs Can't Last a Day was classic Teena and proved to me she still had "the voice".
When Teena joined Twitter, I tried like hell to be a respectful fan and not bug the crap out of her. When she @ replied me one night I literally turned into a giggly teenager and sat at my keyboard saying "she wrote to me, OMG she wrote to me ... be cool Gamma you don't want to turn stalkerish now". I was stupid giddy but I realized Teena was like that. She seemed to enjoy interacting with her fans and that just solidified her a place in my defective heart even more.
When the story started circulating on Twitter that she had died, I did something I promised I wouldn't do ... I tweeted her saying it would be nice to have a tweet from her -- pretty please. She didn't respond. I'm also Twitter pals with a friend of the family so I reached out to them begging, pleading, for someone to dispel this "rumor" ASAP. Instead that Twitter pal confirmed her death. I was done. I cried and immediately turned to well, Teena's music. Later that night, I spent a few hours on @keyinfluencer's Ustream tribute to her and it felt so good to be among true fans and enjoying her music with them. In some strange way, that was my funeral for Teena. I left the tribute sad, yet uplifted (cause that's just what her music did to me) and I was extremely glad for the technology that enabled me to share my sadness with 5,000 of her truest fans.
I wish I had the talent to articulate poetically what Teena's music means to me. But I don't. All I can say is that her music will live forever and I will always know her voice from the first note. I will always remember her as an artist that performed with soul, with passion, and on her terms. The friend of the family assures me that Teena knew how much I loved her music. I hope that's true.
As I listened to the Lover Girl compilation CD today at work, I chose to believe Teena was smiling down at the joy I was getting while I hunted down the bug in my Excel macro. I choose to believe she was shaking her head as I tried my hardest not to sing Dear Lover out loud (and thinking this is the most non-talented fan I have -- hands down).
I shed a few more tears for Teena, said a prayer for her daughter, her friends and fans everywhere, and commenced to singing Casanova Brown in my head.
I introduced my 4-year old granddaughter to Square Biz last night and she danced with Gamma as if it were Whip My Hair -- proving Lady T.'s music transcends race and age (and will be sung long after Whip My Hair is relegated to the oh I remember that pile).
RIP Lady T. May you rejoin Rick and maybe compile a tune or two with Minnie and Phyllis.