Birth & Death:
Born: Mary Brockert, March 5, 1956, Santa Monica, California. Raised in Southern California, primarily the Los Angeles area.
Died: December 2010, in Santa Monica, California.
From an early age, Teena, a native of the L.A. area, was involved in the performing arts. She acted and sang beginning at a young age, and appearead in a 1964 episode of the "Beverly Hillbillies" TV show (credited under the name Tina Marie Brockert) at the age of 10. In the show, her character does a tap dance audition for Jed Clampett. Also during her childhood, she appeared in commercials and sang with a 36-piece band. As a teenager, she took up singing as a career.
Meeting Rick James:
In 1976, when in her early 20s, she signed with Motown Records and recorded numerous tracks which went unreleased. It wasn't until she met fellow Motown artist Rick James and they began collaborating that Teena's career really began to blossom. Teena's 1979 debut album, Wild and Peaceful was originally conceived as a project for Diana Ross, but James instead worked with Teena on it. The album, which featured her first hit, "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love," was noteworthy in that it didn't feature Teena on the cover; the label had feared blacks might not buy it if they knew Teena was white.
The Brockert Initiative:
In the early 1980s Teena released three more albums, but her biggest success came with the Rick James duet "Fire and Desire," from his Street Songs album. Then in 1982, she sued to get out of her contract with Motown, which she had been having creative differences with. As a result of her successful lawsuit, "The Brockert Initiative," which is named after her, makes it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material and allows artists to leave an unsupportive record company and sign with another label.
Hiatus and Comeback:
After leaving Motown, Teena signed with Epic and continued her recording career. She had a string of R&B hits throughout the 1980s, including "Lovergirl" (1984) and "Ooh La La La" (1986). Her popularity fell off somewhat in the 1990s, and she took a 10-year break between albums. She returned in 2004 with her 11th studio album, La Doña, which was released three months before the death of her ex-mentor and lover Rick James. One of the albums songs, "I Got You," is a duet between Teena and Rick. As of early 2010, Teena was still recording music.
Teena was found dead in her home in Santa Monica, California in December 2010. About a month prior, she had suffered a grand mal seizure and had been in poor health since. She had also recovered from an addiction to prescription pills in the years before her death.