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Legendary R&B singer Teena Marie dead at 54

Teena Marie, the R&B singer known as the "Ivory Queen of Soul" for her hits "Lovergirl" and "Square Biz," died in her California home over the weekend. She was 54.

With her powerful, soulful voice and a love of hip-hop, Marie confounded race-based expectations in the predominantly black worlds of R&B and hip-hop in the early '80s and became an inspiration to singers of all races. Mary J. Blige tweeted Sunday that Marie "inspired me vocally as a child. Her songs I sang in the mirror with a hair brush." Missy Elliott tweeted: "Teena created music that is timeless! Songs sung with soul and conviction, a true LEGEND!"

Marie also made a mark in the music industry, fighting for the passage of the Brockert Initiative - Marie's real name was Mary Christine Brockert - which prohibits a record company from keeping an artist under contract while refusing to release their albums.

According to her publicist, Lynn Jeter, a month ago the singer-songwriter-producer reportedly suffered a grand mal seizure, a neurological event marked by a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. "Luckily, someone was there," Jeter told CNN. "The ambulance took her to the hospital, and on the way she had another seizure." However, she was believed to be feeling better and preparing for a show this week in Atlanta when her teen daughter, Alia Rose, found her unresponsive early Sunday.

Marie made her debut on the Motown label in 1979, becoming one of the very few white acts to break the race barrier of the groundbreaking black-owned record label that had been a haven for artists like Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, the Supremes and Marvin Gaye.

The cover of her debut album, "Wild and Peaceful," did not feature her image, with Motown apparently fearing black audiences might not buy it if they found out the songstress with the dynamic, gospel-inflected voice was white.

"[Motown founder Berry] Gordy said that it was so soulful that he wanted to give the music an opportunity to stand on its own merit. Instead of my face, they put a seascape, so by the time my second album came out people were like, Lady T is White?" she told Essence.com.

Marie was the protege of the masterful funk wizard Rick James, with whom she would have a long, turbulent, but musically magical relationship. She notched her first hit, "I'm a Sucker for Your Love," with the help of James on that album. By the time her second album was released, her face was known - and on the cover of the record.

But there was no backlash - she would only get more popular on her way to becoming one of R&B's most revered queens. With wire services

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