R&B singer and songwriter Teena Marie, best known for the hit 1980s singles “Lovergirl” and “Ooo La La La,” died at her home in Los Angeles on Sunday, according to news reports. She was 54.
The cause of death was not known, and a spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. Her friend, percussionist Sheila E, reported on Twitter that Teena Marie had a history of seizures.
Teena Marie, whose real name was Mary Brockert, was one of the rare white performers to enjoy crossover success on America’s black music charts.
A protégée of funk singer Rick James, she signed with Motown Records in 1975 and released her first album four years later. That album, which was mostly written by James, led fans to believe that Teena Marie was black since it did not feature a picture of her. Her duet with James on “I’m a Sucker For You” peaked at No. 8 on Billboard’s Black Singles chart.
“I’ve always been accepted by the black community and I think that’s a beautiful thing,” Teena Marie told Jet magazine in 2006.
She released 13 albums up to 2009’s “Conga Square,” on which she paid tribute to jazz influences, such as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.
Teena Marie’s career had been on the upswing since 2004 when she signed with a New Orleans rap label and released her first album in a decade. “La Dona” debuted and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, the first time she had ever cracked the top 20. A song from the album, “Still in Love,” took her onto the Hot 100 singles chart for the first time since 1988.
Two of her albums, 1981’s “It Must Be Magic” and 1984’s “Starchild,” went gold for U.S. shipments in excess of 500,000 units each, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. The latter album, released after she left Motown in the wake of a legal battle, spawned the tune “Lovergirl,” which hit No. 4 on the Hot 100. “Ooo La La La,” meanwhile, went to No. 1 on the black singles chart in 1988.
Teena Marie is survived by a daughter, Alia Rose.