Monday, January 10, 2011

Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Teena Marie

"She was not a spiritual human being, but a spirit having a human experience".

Dressed in white hundreds of close friends and family gathered at Forest Lawn today to say goodbye to R&B superstar, Teena Marie, at an afternoon memorial service. The singer, producer, died December 26, in her Pasadena home, but no signs of trauma were found according to investigators. She was 54.

In attendance were music legends, Stevie Wonder, Smokie Robinson, Berry Gordy, and R&B greats Johnny Gill, George Duke, Deniece Williams, Shanice Wilson, and Norwood Young. Near the start of the service, an emotional Wilson shared a special moment when Marie became her unofficial "auntie". After the story she delivered a beautiful performance of "Ave Maria."

Later, a medley of Marie's hits were performed by a group, as baby pictures and photos with friends and family, including Rick James, were displayed on a large screen. The performance was a musical reminder to celebrate Teena Marie's life and talents, not just mourn the loss of it. When songs "Square Biz" and "I Need Your Lovin" were sung many attendees bobbed their heads to the beat, while soulful ballads "Dear Lover" and "Portuguese Love" moved some to sway to the music.

During remarks close friend and ex-label mate, Smoky Robinson, shared how he informed Motown founder, Barry Gordy, of Teena Marie's passing. But it was Gordy that led Smoky to call her house and hear Marie's tribute to him on her voice mail. In return, Smoky wrote and performed an original ballad in her honor. "Go on, glow on...shine. You'll always be love girl; you'll always rock my world," he sang.

Gordy followed Smoky with comments about how much he loved Teena Marie's attitude. "She was bad," he said, then quoted the rap from "Square Biz". The audience agreed with applause. "I'll miss her forever and forever," he said in close.

Following sincere comments from Stevie Wonder on the blessing of Marie's talent and existence, her brave daughter Alia Rose, closed out the remarks. With tears she expressed her closeness and love for her mother. Having celebrated her 19th birthday the day before her mother's death, Rose said "my mom was having problems with me growing up...she died so she won't have to...When she died, I grew up."

A releasing of doves marked the end of the memorial service.

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