It doesn’t seem like five years since Mary Christine Brockert-known to most as Teena Marie,passed away from concussion related seizures. A few days ago? My good online friend Steve passed away of brain cancer. Seems as if every time the holiday season comes around in the last decade or so? Death hangs in the air-whether it be a mass gun shooting, the death of a friend or a great talent. For the next week however? Want to try to begin a healing process by celebrating the music of Teena Marie,and thereby the life that motivated that artistry.
Teena Marie first came to my attention through the Pure Disco compilation in the late 1990’s. This amazing and distinctive vocal talent was also connected to a strong cultural component. Lady T,as many called her, was one of very few Caucasian artists whose career was helped along by the black community-rather than the other way around. Decided to pick some personal favorites out of the funkiest music in her catalog. Today wanted to start out with her debut single from her second album titled Lady T from 1980. It was appropriately titled “Behind The Groove”.
The groove starts out with a sizzling salsa based percussion and bassy piano part. That percussion soon builds into a thick rhythm build around heavy bass/guitar interaction,punctuating horn charts and occasional bursts of high pitched,spacey synthesizers. The horns and synths come to a frenzied climax on the vocal refrains of the songs. On the following chorus? The feeling continues as T’s vocal adlibs mesh with the frenzied buildup of the instrumentation-from the horns to disco whistles as the song fades out.
Focusing the instrumental talents of the Westlake studio crew for the music? This song takes the funkiest elements of MJ’s Off The Wall to it’s strongest conclusions. It also emphasizes it’s similarity to Rick James Stone City Band-especially as James had a huge hand in introducing Teena to the world in 1979. As the era of boogie/electro funk began to emerge? “Behind The Groove” represents the most sleekly produced variation of the disco era funk sound that I’ve ever heard thus far. And for me at least is among the strongest of her early jams.