29 April 1945
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
16 March 1970 (aged 24)
Tammi Terrell (born Thomasina Montgomery) (April 29, 1945 to March 16, 1970) was an American Motown singer in the 1960s, best known for her duets with Marvin Gaye.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 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 Jr. while playing live, and signed to his Motown label. Attractive and talented, she became romantically linked with both James Brown and David Ruffin, lead singer of The Temptations.
Tammy Montgomery changed her name to "Tammi Terrell" at the time of her Motown signing, and was teamed with producers Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol. After releasing a pair of minor R&B chart hits, "I Can't Believe You Love Me" and "Come On and See Me," Terrell was chosen to replace Kim Weston as Marvin Gaye's duet partner. The duo recorded a number of successful hits which remain popular today: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and "You're All I Need to Get By", all written (and in the case of the latter two, produced by) Ashford & Simpson.
While on tour with Gaye in Virginia in mid-1967, Terrell fainted on stage, and was later diagnosed as having a malignant brain tumor. While Terrell endured several operations and continued to record new material, her health steadily deteriorated. Fuqua and Bristol resorted to having Gaye overdub archived Terrell solo tracks to fill out the Gaye/Terrell duets albums. The final album attributed to Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, "Easy" (1969), actually features co-producer Valerie Simpson subbing for Terrell on all but two of the tracks.
Twelve of Tammi Terrell's solo Motown recordings, including "I Can't Believe You Love Me", "Come On and See Me," and a minor hit cover of The Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)", were issued as Terrell's only solo album, "Irresistible," in January 1969. Terrell died of brain cancer at age 24 on March 16, 1970.
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