I think we all need at least one
really nice positive thing about the entertainment business every single
day of the year, including weekends. Sometimes it may be something
simple, like a video that showcases something fun and sometimes it may
be a movie poster that embraces the aesthetic we all want Hollywood to
aspire to. Sometimes it may be a long-winded diatribe. Sometimes it’ll
be from the staff and extended family of CHUD.com. Maybe even you
readers can get in on it. So, take this to the bank. Every day, you will
get a little bit of positivity from one column a day here. Take it with
you. Maybe it’ll help you through a bad day or give folks some fun
things to hunt down in their busy celluloid digesting day.
By David Oliver: Author Page
What I’m Thankful For
Teddy Pendergrass and Teena Marie
It’s the time of year when people, and especially the media, look back on the past 12 months and reminisce. A regular part of that is noting the passings of celebrities from the entire spectrum of entertainment. In the realm of music, specifically R&B and Soul music, there have been some pretty big losses this last year. Lena Horne was a major, major loss. But at 92, I think she had quite the good run. Ali-Ollie Woodson, one of the Temptations in the ’80s anf 90s and occasionally the last decade, died. Al Goodman, of The Moments (later Ray, Goodman and Brown) also passed. Just a few days ago, Bernard Wilson, one of the last two surviving members of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes died. Personally, however, there were two music passings that really affected me within the past year. The first was Teddy Pendergrass in January. The second was the shocking death of Teena Marie just three days ago.
Teddy Pendergrass really needs no introduction and not much explanation of the impact he had on Popular and Soul music. His reputation as one of the guys to whose music babies were made was well deserved. His raspy baritone shot him to stardom as the lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in the ’70s, and later to a storied solo career. His singles such as “Close The Door,” “Turn Off The Lights,” and “Love TKO” are R&B staples. I also like his lesser-known songs such as ‘The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” “Can’t We Try,” and especially “You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration,” which is probably my favorite of his songs.
Of course Pendergrass’ career, while not ended, was severely affected by his spinal chord injury in a 1982 car crash. He did go on to have other hits, including “Joy” and “It Should Have Been You” in later years His death on January 13th wasn’t as big a shock as much as it was such a big loss. Pendergrass had been hospitalized repeatedly since his accident and respiratory complications from colon cancer finally claimed him. But he’s left a musical legacy that his fans, including me, will continue to enjoy for years.
Unlike Teddy Pendergrass’ passing, though, the death of Teena Marie on December 26th was an unexpected gut punch. When people spoke of Teena Marie, it was always, “white chick who sings black,” or that she was the “Ivory Queen of Soul.” Sure, those things are apt, but she really was, at the core, simply a talented singer, musician, songwriter and producer. She just happened to play in a musical sandbox into which not that many white artists venture.
Marie got her start in Motown in the late ’70s, when she auditioned for label founder, Berry Gordy, himself. She quickly fell under the tutelage of Rick James, who did a duet with her on her first song, “I’m Just a Sucker For Your Love.” It’s kind of funny that her picture wasn’t displayed anywhere on the cover of her first album, Wild and Peaceful. A lot of black radio station DJs didn’t know her race early on until she debuted the song with James on Soul Train. James also did a duet with Marie for “Fire and Desire,” which is arguably one of the most lush R&B duets ever. It was also the last song the two performed together, at the BET Awards in 2004, shortly before James’ death.
From the time of her third album, Irons In The Fire, Marie wrote and produced most of her own material. She was noted for her guitar playing abilities and rousing live performances as much as her soulful voice on ballads such as the titluar “Irons In The Fire,” “Deja Vu (I’ve Been Here Before,” “Dear Lover,” “Out On A Limb,” and “Ooo La La La.” She balanced those out with upbeat pop and funk numbers like “Behind The Groove,” “Portuguese Love,” “Square Biz,” and the biggest hit of her career, “Lovergirl.”
What’s also noteworthy about Marie is that she took a 10-year layoff
from the music industry to raise her daughter, and then returned in 2004
with a successful comeback album, La Dona, which featured the singles “Still In Love” and “A Rose By Any Other Name,” with the late Gerald Levert. Two more albums, Sapphire and Congo Square
would follow in 2006 and 2009. Hearing about her death of what looks
to be natural causes (she had had a grand mal seizure just a month ago)
was like taking a Klitschko punch (Vitaly or Wladimir, take your pick).
Marie was only 54, and on a definite upswing in her career the last few
Marie was an L.A. native and frequently performed in the area. I had flirted several times with catching one of her shows, but never did. And now that I won’t get the chance to, I think that’s something I’m going to regret whene I hear her music. But I am thankful that she left it for us to continue to enjoy.
R.I.P. Teddy P, Lady T.