As we all still struggle with the passing of Teena Marie, several tributes have surfaced, but few as compelling as this one. The lovely Sy Smith has teamed with frequent collaborator/super producer Mark de Clive-Lowe for a ‘completely re-imagined’ version of “Lovergirl” as only they can do. I think Teena would be proud. Check out Sy’s personal tribute and rare insight into the creative process of this fitting production:
Mark e-mailed me this track as I was in the studio recording a tune with Rahsaan Patterson. The date was 12/29, just 3 days after Teena Marie passed away. I went back and forth between listening to this track on my headphones and listening to Rahsaan as he laid vocals. Obviously this wasn’t gonna be something I could multi-task, so I dedicated myself to listening to Rahsaan! But once Rah and I finished our recording, Grant Nicholas (my engineer) and I got a quick edit and rough mix of the tune done and Grant took a break for something he calls “food”. 🙂
Now I was able to dedicate myself to this (kinda rare) downtempo track from Mark. I was immediately drawn to the sentimental mood of the guitar line, it sounded like the track itself was recalling some fond memory. Rah and I had just had a long conversation about the loss of Teena Marie and how bad she was, how relevant she remained, how her phrasing and songwriting was so top-notch… We recalled the phrasing of “Lovergirl”, esp the vamp “Coffee, tea, or me…” bit. So when I heard Mark’s track, and Rah was already gone, and I was all alone in the studio with the lights barely on, I began singing that phrase from “Lovergirl”. I couldn’t believe how perfectly it seemed to settle into the track. I knew right away that this is what I’d record – a humble tribute to one of my favorite recording artists ever, Lady T.
I looked up the lyrics and just started making mental notes as to how I would structure of the song. I really liked the idea of starting with “When the push comes to shove” because that phrase was one of my favorites in the original. I always loved when Teena would just “speak” lines, ya know? So I had the basic structure completed, in my head. I was ready to rock. When Grant returned, I barely let him eat his food before I was like “pull up this track, I wanna record something else!” (Sorry Grant. I know I can be a workaholic. Please forgive me. I promise to take more breaks in the future.) Grant passed me some french fries because I guess I, too, need to eat. He pulled up the track and we began recording.
It took about an hour to lay the vocals. Another hour to get a nice rough mix going. Grant and I really liked the mood of this new “Lovergirl”. Lady T’s lyrics and phrasing lent themselves so well to this backdrop, and it all felt like falling into a bed of velvet rose petals. I was beyond sleepy and spent. So I asked Grant if he’d put some horns down at some point (Grant is a multi-talented engineer and musician on keys/trumpet!). We discussed where the horns would go, and I didn’t need to say much because Grant and I come from very similar musical schools of thought. When I woke up the next morning, Grant sent me and Mark this… Mark dug it… And so it goes…
Thank you Teena Marie for your many contributions to the world of music. Your performances, your writing, your musicianship and your voice will remain, and rightfully so, eternally in the world of classic music. Soul, rhythm & blues, and beyond. You are forever a Starchild. This is for you Lady T. You said, “I just want to rock your world”. And that you did.
released 01 January 2011
Produced by Mark de Clive-Lowe
Vocal Arrangement/Production by Sy Smith
All Vocals – Sy Smith
Trumpet – Grant Nicholas
Horn Arrangement – Grant Nicholas
All other instruments – Mark de Clive-Lowe
R.I.P. Lady T