Teena Marie, who made history as Motown’s first white act has died.
Confirmation of her death came from publicist Jasmine Vega, who worked with the singer on her last album, and her manager Mike Gardner.
Marie, 54, was not the first white act to sing soul music, but was arguably among the most gifted and respected and was thoroughly embraced by the black audience.
She was first signed to the legendary Motown label in 1979 at the age of 19, working with mentor Rick James, with whom she would have a long, turbulent but musically magical relationship.
The cover of her album Wild And Peaceful did not feature her image, with Motown apparently fearing backlash by audiences if they found out the songstress with the dynamic voice was white.
But Marie notched her first hit, I’m A Sucker For Your Love, and was on her way to becoming one of R&B’s most revered queens. During her tenure with Motown, the singer-songwriter and musician produced passionate love songs and funk jam songs like Need Your Lovin’, Behind The Groove and Ooh La La La.
She developed a lasting legacy with her silky soul pipes and with hits like Lovergirl, Square Biz and Fire And Desire with James. Marie had a daughter and had toured in recent years after overcoming an addiction to prescription drugs.
It was unclear where and how she died. Even before she started her musical career, she had a strong bond with the black community, which she credited to her godmother. She gravitated to soul music and in her youth decided to make it her career.
Marie was one of the very few white acts to break the race barrier of Motown, the groundbreaking black-owned record label that had been a haven for black artists like Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, the Supremes and Marvin Gaye.
Marie left Motown in 1982 and her split became historic. She sued the label and the legal battle led to a law preventing record labels from holding an artist without releasing any of their music. She went to Epic in the 1980s and had hits like Lovergirl, but her lasting musical legacy would be her Motown years.