friend Terry was a doorman at a private club in San Francisco. For my
eighteenth birthday, he invited me to the club. He unhooked the velvet
rope. After a few hours, my brother came and said; either Quincy Jones
or Marvin Gaye is at the bar. I told him, it’s probably Marvin Gaye, he’s
performing in the area. Nevertheless, we rushed over to the bar, it was
Marvin Gaye, I walked past his bodyguard and planted a kiss on his cheek, my
brother told him it was my birthday. Marvin Gaye wished me a Happy Birthday
and asked me to dance.
was a smooth dancer as everyone crowded around; he was also sexy and charismatic. After the dance, he thanked me; I took the opportunity to tell him “your
best work was with Tammi Terrell.” He said thank-you but you could see
the sadness and emptiness creep into his face before he walked away.
Tragic Death Of Tammi Terrell:
Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery on April 29 th 1945 in Philadelphia.
Performing was in her blood; she won numerous talent shows and local competitions.
She would later perform in nightclubs and theaters. In 1960 she was spotted
by a talent scout and signed to Scepter Records.
spent her first recording session cutting demos for the Shirelles, the top female
group at the time. In 1961 she recorded her first single “If You See Bill.”
The following year at the age of 16 she recorded another single “Voice
Of Experience.” Both singles flopped.
1963, Tammi joined the James Brown Revue. It has been rumored that Terrell and
Brown were romantically involved, allegedly her parents objected and her professional
and personal involvement with Brown came to an end.
1965, Terrell performed with Jerry Butler at the Twenty Grand, Berry Gordy was
in the audience. He introduced himself, shortly afterwards; Terrell signed
a contract with Motown Records.
1967, Marvin Gaye was without a duet partner. Motown producers Johnny
Bristol and Harvey Fuqua reasoned that Tammi would be a perfect match; they
had the perfect song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” written by Nick Ashford
and Valerie Simpson.
recording session was magical, their voices blended perfectly, their chemistry
was magnetic, the producers accepted the first take. The greatest duo
in R&B history was born on this day.
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell had a definite sexual chemistry, they remained
friends; they had a brother and sister type of relationship. Tammi was
dating David Ruffin, lead singer of the Temptations.
and Marvin would record a string of hits, “Your Precious Love” and “Ain’t Nothing
Like The Real Thing.” Tammi became the toast of Philadelphia.
the Motown picnics, Tammi was the life of the party, with her sassy good looks
and sweet personality. At these picnics, you could watch the Temps and
Four Tops play touch football or softball, the Supremes work on a medley, Smokey
Robinson going over lyrics with the Miracles, Martha & The Vandellas talking
wardrobe with Mary Wells and Little Stevie Wonder being mischievous. At
one table, you had the songwriters, Holland-Dozier-Holland and Ashford and Simpson
discussing structure. At another table you had the studio musicians, The
had the ‘it factor.’ When she walked into a room, her presence dominated the
room. Fans loved her; she was very personable and approachable.
relationship with David Ruffin was rocky, they were on and off and they dated
other people between breakups.
have circulated for years that Tammi was the victim of physical abuse. Allegedly, a boyfriend threw her down a flight of stairs, on another occasion
the boyfriend had his bodyguard stand outside the door to prevent anyone from
coming to her rescue as he beat her to a pulp, her screams were deafening, he
also hit her over the head with a steel chair.
several months, Tammi complained of severe migraine headaches, during a performance
at Hampton-Sydney College she collapsed in Marvin Gaye’s arms. She was
rushed to the hospital; tests revealed, she had a malignant brain tumor.
respected her privacy and played down her illness. The hits continued
as Tammi returned to work. Marvin Gaye tried to lighten up the atmosphere in
the studio with pranks and jokes. A second Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
album “You’re all I Need” was released, produced by Ashford and Simpson.
continued to hamper Tammi, the once energetic girl was now a shell of herself
and the tumor was taking its toll. A series of operations began, the treatments
were painful and Tammi began to suffer memory loss, numbness and weakness. She became too sick to work.
engineered a deception, Valerie Simpson stepped in to take her place, Marvin
was unhappy with the decision. Motown argued, it was in Tammi’s best interest.
Allegedly, Tammi could continue receiving medical benefits with this
deception as well as royalty checks and the public demand would be met.
“Onion Song” was released, one of the duo’s biggest hits. The public had
no idea that Valerie Simpson sang the female vocals, not Tammi.
leaked out that Tammi was dying. Motown continued to play down her illness
and David Ruffin appeared in public to reassure her fans that she was still
would endure eight operations. Her family and friends felt helpless as
they watched her decline. She would be confined to a wheelchair, suffer
from blindness, hair loss and she plummeted to 85 lbs.
March 16 th 1970, Tammi Terrell died, she was 24. Millions of fans mourned
her death and thousands attended her funeral. Her grave stands in Mount
Lawn Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Gaye was devastated and inconsolable. He wouldn’t perform in public for
several years and he vowed never to replace Tammi with another partner. He kept that promise throughout his life.
TO VIEW A VIDEO OF TAMMI TERRELL & MARVIN GAYE SINGING "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH," Click Link