Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Ivory Queen of Soul & The Queen of Stax

This was originally written for my friend's blog:  However, since it's New Years Day I thought I'd make it my first post here.

On December 26, 2010, Teena Marie (AKA Marie Christine Brockert) passed away at 54. Teena Marie was known as the “Ivory Queen of Soul” because she was a white Rhythm and Blues singer who was more popular in the Black Community.

Teena Marie was initially signed to Motown records and was mentored by Rick James, who wrote and produced her first album. Initially radio programmers assumed she was black since her first album did not include her photo. This song, “Square Biz” was from her fourth album released in 1981.

In 1982, Teena Marie got into a legal battle with Motown Records and eventually a new legal principal was named after her. Known as the Brockert Initiative, it established that a record company could not keep an artist under contract without releasing any new material.  After leaving Motown,  she signed to Epic records. One of the singles released in this period “Oh La La La” was interpolated in The Fugees’ song “Fu-Gee-La”:

Teena Marie went on hiatus for about 14 years and then recorded a couple of albums for Cash Money Records (Home of L’il Wayne among others).  Her final album Congo Square was released on the newly revitalized Stax Records in 2009.  Here’s the title track:

From the Ivory Queen of Soul to the Queen of Stax. Without Carla Thomas, the history of Stax Records would have unfolded quite differently.  In 1961, local DJ Rufus Thomas approached Stax founder Jim Stewart about recording a duet with his daughter Carla.  Up until this point Stax had recorded mainly country and bluegrass singles as this was the music Jim Stewart grew up with. The song, “Cause I Love You” garnered enough local response that it caught the attention of Atlantic Records co-founder Jerry Wexler.  This ultimately led to Stax Records recording primarily Rhythm and Blues and also the initial distribution agreement between Atlantic Records and Stax.

This song, “New Year’s Resolution” comes from King and Queen, an album recorded by Carla Thomas with Otis Redding:

Otis and Carla had incredible chemistry together on this album and it shows on this song. As in their hit “Tramp” you can especially hear in the adlib section how much fun they were having recording this song. This is one of my favourites.

Wishing you all a happy new year and all the best for 2011!

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