Teena Marie – Live @ Taste of Chicago

Teena MarieGrand Dame Teena Marie
Kicks off Taste of Chicago in grand style

(Chicago – June 2004)
by D. Kevin McNeir

Back in the late 70’s a true anomaly burst on the R&B scene—a white woman who brought the complete package: singer, songwriter, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and performer. Her name was Mary Christine Brockert but she chose to don the stage name Teena Marie.

Now some 30 years later, and with platinum- and gold-selling albums to her credit, she’s returned with a new CD, La Dona. Marie recently kicked off Chicago’s annual mid-summer extravaganza, Taste of Chicago. And ask anyone who was there—she sounds just as good as she did in her hey day with her mentor, and perhaps even one-time love, Rick James.

Marie is currently at the top of the charts with her single “I’m Still Lovin’You”—a song she chose to do as her final selection in a non-stop two-hour performance. Now that’s real “old school” for you. And yes, this 5’1 phenom gave everything she had to the audience, directing her band, playing several solos on the guitar, even falling to her knees as she felt the lyrics behind some of her more powerful and popular songs from the past.

Chicago, which is known as the “steppers’ capital of Black America” rose to its feet when Marie began to belt out her newest release, with couples using every available inch to spin, twirl and groove to the music.

From the beginning of the concert we knew we were in for something special when Marie had local disc jockeys kick things off with a medley of old school jams, including “Car Wash,” “I’ll Be There” (The Four Tops’ version) and “Love Child”—with every person in the packed venue appearing to know every verse.

Then, after a moment of silence in honor of the late Ray Charles—something that the songstress does at the beginning of each concert—Lady Tee was on the stage, looking great—like time had somehow forgotten to touch her—and sounding just as wonderful as she did when this writer was barely aware of the power of love.

Did she play all of her golden oldies? You bet she did, from “Deja Vue,” “I’m Just a Sucker For Your Love” and “Portuguese Love,” to “Fire and Desire,” “Dear Lover” and her 1984 crossover smash “Lovergirl.”

Of course, she mixed some of the standard guitar riffs from Rick James and Parliament/Funkadelic, making it even more like an old school party … “the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, we don’t need no water let the …” Well, you get the point! And for an encore, what would you expect but “Square Biz”?

It may be 10 years since Marie has released an album, but it’s clear she hasn’t been on vacation. With all-new material and in her own words, “a desire to rid the radio waves of some of the negative junk that our young people are listening to,” Marie is a welcome addition to today’s R&B cuts.

And it is fitting that her CD, produced by Cash Money Classics, is entitled “La Dona.” After all, La Dona to Latin families is the equivalent of the Godmother—one who has paved the way, laid the foundation and inspired those who continue to follow her by her own example.

Let’s just hope she keeps on going for years to come. And maybe, she’ll even reveal where she hides her fountain of youth.