In her event-packed but short-lived career, Tammi Terrell is world famous for her duets with Marvin Gaye – which include eleven hit singles and three albums – and also her solo work, showcased in her LP, Irresistible.
- First hit: “I Can’t Believe You Love Me”
- Biggest hit: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” (with Gaye)
- Top album: Irresistible
- Career highlight: You’re All I Need, her biggest hit album with Marvin Gaye. Her charismatic personality helps coax Gaye out of his shell when they appear on several TV shows and live dates, which some consider among his best performances before the recording studio takes over.
- Born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery, April 29, 1945, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (she will also die in that city), the singer’s early career features 45s for the Wand and Checker labels, then stints with James Brown’s Revue and recordings for his Try Me label. She signs to Motown in 1965.
- Motown founder Berry Gordy gives Terrell her contract soon after her 20th birthday, as well as that stage name. Early successes as a solo artist include “I Can’t Believe You Love Me” and “Come On And See Me”.
- Following Kim Weston’s departure from Motown, just as her duet with Marvin Gaye, “It Takes Two,” Motown pairs Gaye with Tammi Terrell. They first have him overdub a duet voice to her original solo version of Ashford & Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
- The record’s smashing success leads to more classic songs together: “Your Precious Love,” “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You,” “If This World Were Mine,” “Ian’ Nothing Like The Real Thing” and much more, including the socially conscious “The Onion Song,” which hits the U.K. top ten.
- Tammi’s solo album, Irresistible, draws together material from three years of recording at Motown, and features backing from the Spinners, the Andantes and the Funk Brothers. The highlight is a cover of Holland/Dozier/Holland’s “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You).”
- After a series of migraine headaches Terrell collapses on stage on October 14, 1967. She undergoes several surgeries for a brain tumor but never recovers. After a few valiant tries at recording and performing, she dies March 25, 1970. Terrell’s death robs us of a considerable if underused talent.
- Discover Tammi on such compilations as The Complete Duets (with Gaye) and Come On And See Me: The Complete Solo Collection.