'Sapphire': Rick James-Inspired Soul

Teena Marie.

Teena Marie. hide caption

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Ed Gordon talks with soul singer and songwriter Teena Marie about her latest CD, Sapphire, which features music inspired by Marie's late mentor, funk star Rick James.

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ED GORDON, host:

Songstress Teena Marie has a new CD called Sapphire. The music is what we've come to expect from this veteran of almost 30 years. As a product of the Motown music she grew up on, the Venice, California native has stayed true to the R&B sound. With punk-funk music icon Rick James, Teena created one of the most endearing soul ballads of all time: the classic Fire and Desire.

(Soundbite of song, "Fire and Ice")

Mr. RICK JAMES (Singer): (Singing) You were cold as ice, long ago. Baby! Baby!

Ms. TEENA MARIE (Singer): (Singing) I wasn't, I wasn't very nice, I know.

GORDON: Teena has generated one of the largest black followings of any white artist. As a songwriter, producer, and arranger, she's composed an arsenal of hits like Square Biz, I Need Your Lovin', and Ooh La La La.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh la la la")

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) Ooh la la la. As we take to the sky on a natural high. Ooh la la la la. It's so happy to say it when you're heart's content.

GORDON: Teena, what is it about your music? You know, some people can't do this same kind of sound over and over again and still keep it fresh. You've been able to find a way to do that. I mean, this, in 2006, is as classic as any of the music that you've done.

Ms. MARIE: Well, thank you. I'm blessed. I'm blessed, that's the first thing. And, I have a lot of young people around me. My daughter and all her friends are with me all the time. So, I'm like the house that, you know, that T built. You know? So I try to blend, um, my thing with kind of what's going on, without - not being true to my - I'm always true to myself first.

GORDON: I don't know of any other artist, Teena, that really has had the kind of love affair you've had with black America.

Ms. MARIE: Uh, I think it's because of the way I was raised. I just embraced the sound that I loved, and I think that people can feel the genuineness and the purity of Teena Marie. And it's really, really who I am.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) On a starry winter night in Portugal.

Ms. MARIE: And I still have people coming up to me 26 years later and looking at me and all of a sudden going, I didn't know you were white! You know? It's what comes from within, you know? And I didn't sit up and try to emulate, you know what I'm saying?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) You make love forever. I ain't gonna let you go that easy. You've got to say you love me, too. I ain't gonna you go that easy. I'm going to give it all to you. Portuguese in love. Oh, won't you say it to me, say it to me, say you love me, baby. Portuguese in love...

GORDON: You've been very up front in fighting for your rights, including a law named after you which stated that labels could not keep artists under contract without putting out material on them. When you decided to make that fight, how much did you think about what that might have done to your career?

Ms. MARIE: I had no idea that there was going to one day be a Teena Marie bill passed. It's called the Brockert Initiative, which, Brockert being my last name. I just wanted to be away, and, you know, when they sued me, I countersued and I just happened to win. So it just fell in my lap. But, it really has helped a lot of people since.

GORDON: I want to get into the new project - that's Sapphire, the new CD. Talk to me about the inspiration. I know that you've had a couple, but the main inspiration - your protégé, Rick James.

Ms. MARIE: Yes. His passing was very, very hard for me. We have made a magical mark with the music that we did together. And, when he passed, I was very, very hurt and devastated. I think, in order to avoid some of that pain, I was sent a lot of music. And even though I was sad, there's a lot of really, really uplifting songs on the record. And I think that Rick really lived that, you know? He had a lot of really, really up, you know, fun stuff. And my record is all of that.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) And most of all, I love the way you touch me.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Baby, when we (unintelligible).

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) It lets me know how much you love me, baby.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) How do I count the ways?

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) And most of all, I love the way we roll.

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Roll with me, roll with me...

GORDON: Teena, how much do you believe that - I don't know, you know, let's characterize the relationship as complicated between the two of you. How much do you believe that that was part of the muse, the translation of passion that so many of us felt when the two of you performed, though?

Ms. MARIE: Oh, I definitely believe in that. Because, if it was all good, you know, it wouldn't have been so fiery.

GORDON: You also talked about the idea of really, really feeling his presence during the writing and producing of this CD.

Ms. MARIE: Yes. I actually, when he died, I moved out of my room and I moved down into the den so that I could be in a open space - a real open space - so that when the, you know, sunshine would come up in the morning, I wouldn't stay in the bed. And sometimes, in the middle of the night, I would actually feel like he would wake me up, and, you know, be like, get up. Get up and let's write our song.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MARIE: (Singing) You will always be my king. And I will always be your Lady T. Touch me in the morning. Baby, I don't mind.

GORDON: Here's what is interesting about the new CD as well. If Rick's chapter is closed, we see an opening of a new generation. And that is the fact that your daughter is on this.

Ms. MARIE: Yes, my daughter - I wrote a song called Resilient Sapphire, for the devastation in the South, Hurricane Katrina. And my daughter is doing a duet with me. Her name is Alia. And it's really, really beautiful.

(Soundbite of song, "Resilient Sapphire")

Ms. ALIA ROSE: (Singing) I am moonlight, too. Unconditional love, (unintelligible).

Ms. MARIE: The purity of our sound, together, is something that brings me great joy.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TEENA MARIE: (Singing) My home is just around the bend...

GORDON: Teena Marie, we thank you so much for being a part of the show today.

Ms. MARIE: Thank you. I'm just very appreciative and thankful for all my blessings, and thankful that everybody's still loving me after all this time.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TEENA MARIE: (Singing) I'm going to spread my wings...

GORDON: Teena Marie's CD Sapphire is in stores now.

And join us tomorrow for another soulful lady - the hot and unrestricted Millie Jackson joins us.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TEENA MARIE: (Singing) ...earth will know and hear...

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Sapphire

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Album
Sapphire
Artist
Teena Marie
Label
Cash Money Records
Released
2006

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