Teena Marie: An Accidental Hero to Fellow Artists

Law protects other artists from being stuck on labels that wouldn’t release their songs

Teena Marie, who died Sunday at 54, may be best remembered not just for her songs but for a law that protects fellow artists from languishing at labels that won't release their music.

An autopsy for the R&B singer best known for hits "Lovergirl," "Ooh La La La," and "Lead Me On," was scheduled for early this week, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office told TheWrap Monday. The Rick James protegee reportedly died in her sleep and was found by her daughter.

James, who died in 2004, produced Marie's first album, "Wild and Peaceful," and first hit single, "I'm a Sucker for Your Love." Because she didn't appear on the "Wild and Peaceful" cover, many fans assumed she was black, and she became the rare white artist to thrive on a Berry Gordy label.

But she later sued successfully to get off the label, and her lawsuit led to a law known as "the Brockert Initiative" after her real name, Mary Christine Brockert, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2004.

The law limited a label's ability to hold artists under contract while refusing to release their music.

"It wasn't something I set out to do," she told the Times. "I just wanted to get away from Motown and have a good life. But it helped a lot of people, like Luther Vandross and the Mary Jane Girls and a lot of different artists, to be able to get out of their contracts."