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Thomasina Winifred Montgomery, better known as Tammi Terrell (April 29, 1945 – March 16, 1970) was a Grammy Award-nominated Americanmarker soul singer, most notable for her association with Motown and her duets with Marvin Gaye. As a teenager she recorded for the Scepter/Wand, Try Me and Checker record labels. She signed with Motown in 1965 and enjoyed modest success as a solo singer. Once she was paired with Gaye in 1967, her stardom grew, but later that year she collapsed on stage into Gaye's arms during a performance. She was then diagnosed with a brain tumor which eventually led to her death at the age of 24.

Early years

Born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery in Philadelphiamarker, 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.

Tammi Terrell in her early years.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

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") . However, 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 Hampden-Sydney College, near Farmville, Virginiamarker. she collapsed on stage (in Gammon Gym) 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.)

Death and aftermath

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.


Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in a promotional 1967 photo


with Marvin Gaye



with Marvin Gaye


  • 1961: "If You Seen Bill" (as Tammy Montgomery)
  • 1962: "Voice of the Experience" (as Tammy Montgomery)
  • 1963: "I Cried" (as Tammy Montgomery) (#99 US)
  • 1964: "If I Would Marry You" (as Tammy Montgomery)
  • 1966: "I Can't Believe You Love Me" (#72 US)
  • 1966: "Come and See Me" (#80 US)
  • 1969: "This Old Heart of Mine " #67 US

See also


  2. ; . These songs are credited to Tammi Terrell but several sources say Valerie Simpson filled in on several whole songs or parts of where Terrell couldn't finish because of her health. Gaye said that Berry Gordy came up with the idea of Simpson filling in for the very ill Terrell. Ludie Montgomery (Tammi Terrell's younger sister) says in her book, My Sister Tommie: The Real Tammi Terrell that it is Terrell who is heard and not Simpson.

Further reading

  • Montgomery, Ludie. My Sister Tommie: the Real Tammi Terrell (2005, ISBN 1-904408-16-8)
  • Ritz, David. Divided Soul: the Life of Marvin Gaye (2003 edition, ISBN 0-306-81191-X)
  • Whitall, Susan. For the Record: Women of Motown (1998, ISBN 0-380-79379-2)

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