Download Chrisette Michele’s mixtape Audrey Hepburn: An Audiovisual Presentation from the Coast 2 Coast Mixtapes site.
I’ve been getting behind the groove of Teena Marie’s catalog quite a bit lately. Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since her death. Like many, I was shocked and saddened by her passing. Having been touched by her music for so long, it’s a loss that I, like many I’m sure, still have yet to get over. Much to my surprise, I discovered Teena Marie’s final album, Beautiful, will be released on January 15, 2013!
Teena Marie was in the process of finalizing her 14th album just before she died. Composer/bassist Doug Grigsby, Marie’s longtime musical director, co-produced the project and Alia Rose, Marie’s daughter, oversaw the completion of the project. Alia performs on three songs, a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love,” “Rare Breed,” and “Sweet Tooth” (both of which she co-wrote along with the title track). According to Urban Bridgez Entertainment, Beautiful, “with its intimations of death, was a difficult one for Alia, with her mom seemingly prescient about her destiny…” Alia said, “If you listen to the lyrics, it’s almost as if she was making that transition to the spiritual world as the record was being made, which is incredible…It’s like we’re going on this journey with her.”
One can only imagine what it’s like losing your mother and going into the studio to finish what would be her final album. Alia said it was a “a very dark and emotional time for her,” but she knew she was the only one who could finalize her mother’s album. She said she “almost didn’t want to finish [Beautiful] because [she] knew it would be the last time [she’d] get to work on it.” As perfectly stated by Urban Bridgez Entertainment, “Beautiful is a mother’s gift to her daughter, who returns the gesture the only way she knows how, by completing it. The end result is a true labor of love.”
The first single, “Luv Letter,” is classic Lady T—soulful, passionate, and funky. The song is a tribute to Alia Rose’s father, who was a postman, and pays homage to The Marvelettes and Stevie Wonder, specifically his hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” The single was sent to radio in November and is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon. If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out on Soul Tracks or Urban Bridgez Entertainment.
Beautiful is a bittersweet opus that I’m sure will add to Marie’s iconic, awe-inspiring, poetic, and rich musical legacy. The album is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.
Greetings! My apologies for the lack of posts this week. I got sick the day after Thanksgiving and have been resting as much as possible. Much to my surprise while resting and browsing on Amazon, I discovered a forthcoming 2-CD compilation from the iconic Mary Wells entitled, Something New: Motown Lost & Found. The official release date is 12.04.12 (just in time for the holidays). Something New is the perfect gift for Motown music lovers, Mary Wells fans, or simply connoisseurs of classic music.
Something New features stereo mixes (for the first time) of 47 rare tunes written and produced by Smokey Robinson, Holland Dozier Holland, Berry Gordy, Mickey Stevenson, and Sylvester Potts (of The Contours) to name a few. 23 of the collection’s tunes went unheard until now. Included in these gems are duets with Marvin Gaye; sides Wells recorded for an unfinished standards album; superb tunes Motown was gearing towards the AC (adult contemporary) market, some of which featuring The Four Tops on background vocals; “Your Loss, My Gain,” a b-side to Wells’ single “You Lost The Sweetest Boy” and the track which inspired the collection’s title “This Is Something New.”
The remaining are 24 tunes Motown released on a variety of collections after Wells’ departure from the label in 1964. Some of which were included on the 1966 Vintage Stock album, 1993’s Looking Back, Marvin Gaye’s first boxed set, and several other rarities albums. I don’t know about you, but I’m sold!
In the last two years, I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with Mary Wells. My lovefest with The Queen of Motown was spearheaded after learning more about her life and career through TVOne’s Unsung series. Like many, I swept away by her sweet, seductive, soulful, and emotive contralto. No one can sell a song like Mary Wells. Each song—a performance like no other—illustrated a different glimpse into her unique artistry.
Between 1961 (beginning with the self-penned “Bye Bye Baby”) and 1982 (“Gigolo,” her final hit), Wells scored nearly 20 top 50 hit singles between the R&B, Pop, and Disco/Dance charts. While most of her music is infectious, it was the Smokey Robinson-penned tunes that are most affecting and brought out Wells finest performances. These songs include “Two Lovers,” “You Beat Me To The Punch,” “The One Who Really Loves You,” “What’s Easy For Two Is So Hard For One,” and one of my all-time favorites,”When I’m Gone” (featured on Something New).
Wells’ music was moderately successful in the period following her departure from Motown. She recorded for a number of labels, but none of theme seemed to be well-suited in giving her music the attention and promotion it deserved. A resurgence in the 1980s led to Wells becoming an immensely popular touring artist. In 1989, Wells was recognized for her musical legacy as one of the first Pioneer Awards’ recipients from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
Wells career was cut short in 1990 after being diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. Without proceeds from record sales or touring, cancer treatment took a tremendous toll on her finances. Fortunately she was able to maintain treatment and stay afloat through financial support from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and fellow artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Bonnie Raitt, and Bruce Springsteen (to name a few). Wells also received an undisclosed six-figure settlement from a lawsuit against Motown for lost and unpaid royalties from her recordings. After a brief remission, her cancer returned in the summer of 1991. Sadly, Wells died on July 26, 1992.
Wells was fighter till the end. Her spirit, no matter how great the setbacks in her life were, never seemed to diminish. Wells—like Florence Ballard and Tammi Terrell—was a beautiful and remarkably talented and gifted singer who life ended too soon. But thankfully, her artistry and soul will forever transcend space and time in the musical legacy she left behind.
To learn more about Mary Wells, check out the full episode of TVOne’s Unsung on the SoulTracks site. Also check out the latest biography by Peter Bejaminson entitled Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown’s First Superstar. Benjaminson is also the author of The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard.
Troubles on my heart/Things falling apart/The fight in me was slowly dying/But never did I give up trying/To find my moment to shine. ~ Vesta Williams, “Better Days” (2012)
I have arrived at a place in myself that I am comfortable being exactly who I am in this moment and sharing it with no reservations. ~ Alicia Keys (2012)
Girl on Fire is about new beginnings, new perspectives and fresh starts… stripping away all the bad energy in your life and taking full control of the reigns and how you want to live. There is something really empowering about finding yourself and your own inner strength.
Girl On Fire will be released 11/27/2012.