Her star burns fast and hard, brought to a tragic end in 1970 when, at age 24, Tammi Terrell dies from a brain tumour. In her event-packed but short–lived career, she is loved for her collaborations with Marvin Gaye – eleven hit singles and three duet albums – and also her solo work, showcased in her lone LP, Irresistible.

FAST FACTS:

  • 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: Three albums with MarvinUnited, You’re All I Need and Easy. Her charismatic personality helps coax Gaye out of his shell when they appear on sundry TV shows and live dates, which some consider to be a peak in his performance career 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.
  • 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”: these will be included on Irresistible a couple of years later.
  • Tammi appears on the Motortown Revue and performs Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do (Is Think About You)” and the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You).”
  • Her liaison with Gaye produces the original version of Ashford & Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Your Precious Love,” “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You,” the socially conscious “The Onion Song” (a huge hit in the U.K.) and a final posthumous release, “California Soul.”

  • 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).”
  • Having already collapsed on stage in 1967, Tammi undergoes invasive surgery for her tumor on several occasions but is never cured. She has trouble recording for the Easy album, and gives her last performance in late 1969 at the Apollo Theatre when Gaye spots her in the wings and they bring the house down together with “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Her death robs us of a considerable if underused talent.
  • Discover Tammi on such compilations as The Essential Collection (tracks from Irresistible, plus B-sides and unreleased material), The Complete Duets (with Gaye) and Come On And See Me: The Complete Solo Collection.

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