“Fire And Desire” by Rick James & Teena Marie (1981)

The key word here is passion. There’s so much passion in this duet that it practically drips off the record as it spins. And like many of the best soul duets, “Fire And Desire” feels cinematic, with a plotline that could fit neatly into a film or a soap opera.

“Fire And Desire” finds Rick and his prize protege running into one another by chance. They used to be lovers, but have since split. They start reminiscing, and Rick reveals that Teena was the person who was able to tame him. Rick’s character was a player type, a love ’em and leave ’em kinda guy. Teena turned him the hell out. Rick ends his verse by thanking Teena for showing him true love.

Then Teena comes in with the force of a hurricane and repeats Rick’s verse. Clearly there was something magnetic about the relationship that elicited these unusual (for them) emotions. Having bared their souls to one another, and with the realization that they are both now seeing other people, Rick asks Teena to share one last embrace, for old time’s sake. It’s a chills-inducing passage. Also makes me wonder about something that goes unstated in the song; what split them up. I guess sometimes the fire’s too hot.

While Rick is known for opulence and excess, “Fire And Desire”‘s arrangement is understated. The song’s key elements are the lyrics and the vocal performances. While Teena was an established vocal powerhouse (you had to be if you were a White girl whose audience was 95% Black), I don’t think Rick has ever been known as a *singer*. “Fire And Desire” proved that he could sing as soulfully as any love man competing for the hears of female fans at that time.

A story that’s been told by both singers (and might be apocryphal or at least embellished) is that the duet on “Fire And Desire” almost didn’t happen. Rick was ready to roll in the recording session, but Teena was laid up with a fever of over 100 degrees. Rick decided to use another singer instead, which apparently angered Teena so much that she dragged her sick ass out of bed, marched into the studio and delivered the performance of her life. There’s also the interesting factoid that Rick & Teena actually had a brief romantic relationship, although Rick states in his autobiography that Lady Tee’s preference was generally for other ladies. So I guess “Fire And Desire” came from a very real place.

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