Tammi Terrell (April 29, 1945 – March 16, 1970) was a Grammy Award-nominated American soul singer, most notable for her association with Motown and her duets with Marvin Gaye.
Born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery in Philadelphia, she entered the music business at the age of 13, regularly performing live. In 1961, she was signed to the fledgling Scepter Records (later Wand Records), recording under the name "Tammy Montgomery".
After coming to the attention of James Brown, she recorded one single apiece for Brown's own Try Me record label and, in 1964, Checker Records. The year after that, she was spotted by Berry Gordy while playing live, and signed to his Motown label.
Initially Terrell recorded solo, with only moderate success (she had a pair of R&B Top 30 singles in 1966, "I Can't Believe You Love Me" and "Come on and See Me").
From 1967 onwards she recorded a series of duets with Marvin Gaye, producing hits with Ashford & Simpson written tunes such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By".
However, Terrell's success was to be short-lived. On October 14, 1967, while in concert at the homecoming for the Hampton Institute, Hampton, Virginia. she collapsed on stage (Ogden Hall) in Gaye's arms. She was rushed to the hospital, and she was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. From then on her health deteriorated.
Gaye and Terrell's first duets album, United, contained two tracks which featured Gaye's vocals overdubbed onto previously recorded Terrell solo songs. The second, You're All I Need, relied upon the use of overdubs to complete the album, as Terrell had fallen ill; six of its 12 tracks were Terrell solo recordings overdubbed by Gaye to create duet tracks.
Gaye later told his biographer David Ritz that Terrell was no longer able to record and that Valerie Simpson recorded most of the female vocals on the final Gaye/Terrell duet album, Easy. (Simpson and her husband, Nickolas Ashford, are quoted as denying this in a book written by Terrell's sister Ludie Montgomery.)
Terrell died from a brain tumor at the age of 24. Marvin Gaye reacted to her death by taking a four year hiatus from concert performance and went into self-isolation. In addition, Gaye's classic album What's Going On, an introspective, low-key work which dealt with mature themes released in 1971, was in part a reaction to Terrell's death.
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