Rockapaedia Obituaries

Tammi Terrell

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Tammi Terrell died aged twenty-four on 16th March 19photo of Tammi Terrell70 due to complications from brain cancer, just a month short of her 25th birthday. Tammi's funeral was held at the Janes Methodist Church in Philadelphia, U.S.A. At the funeral, Marvin Gaye delivered a final eulogy while "You're All I Need to Get By" was playing. In early 1970, Tami Terrell had been confined to a wheelchair and suffered from blindness, hair loss and weight loss.
Tammi Terrell was born as Thomasina Winifred Montgomery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. to Jennie and Thomas Montgomery. Jennie was an actress and Thomas was a barbershop owner and local politician. Tammi was the elder of two siblings. According to the Unsung documentary, her younger sister Ludie said that they had thought Tammi Terrell would be a boy and therefore she would be named after her father. However, when she was born, the parents settled on the name Thomasina, nicknaming her "Tommie". She later changed it to "Tammy" after seeing the film, Tammy and the Bachelor, and hearing its theme song, "Tammy", at the age of twelve. Starting around this time, Tammi Terrell started to have migraine headaches. While it was not thought to be of significance at the time, family members would later state that these headaches might have been related to her later diagnosis of brain cancer. According to her sister, their mother was mentally ill.
In 1960, Tammi Terrell signed under the Wand subsidiary of Scepter Records after being discovered by Luther Dixon, recording the ballad, "If You See Bill", under the name Tammy Montgomery and doing demos for The Shirelles. After another single, Tammi Terrell left the label and, after being introduced to James Brown, signed a contract with him and began singing backup for his Revue concert tours. In 1963, she recorded the song "I Cried". Released on Brown's Try Me Records, it became her first charting single, reaching number 99 on the Billboard Hot 100. During this time, Tammi became sexually involved in an abusive relationship with James Brown. One night on the road Tammi left Brown after getting mercilessly beaten for not watching his entire performance. Bobby Bennett, former member of the Famous Flames witnessed the assault. "He beat Tammi Terrell terrible. She was bleeding, shedding blood. Tammi left him because she didn't want her butt whipped," said Bennett.
After this tenure ended, Tammi Terrell signed with Checker Records and released the Bert Berns produced duet, "If I Would Marry You" with Jimmy Radcliffe, which Tammi Terrell co-composed. Following this relative failure, Tammi Terrell announced a semi-retirement from the music business and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in pre-med, staying at the school for two years. In the middle of this, Tammi Terrell was asked by Jerry Butler to sing with him in a series of shows in nightclubs. After an arrangement was made by Butler to assure Tammi Terrell that she could continue her schooling, she began touring with Butler. In April 1965, during a performance at the Twenty Grand Club in Detroit, she was spotted by Motown CEO Berry Gordy, who promised to sign her to Motown. Tammi Terrell agreed and signed with the label on April 29th, her 20th birthday. Before releasing her first single with Motown's Tamla subsidiary, "I Can't Believe You Love Me", Gordy suggested a name change. Figuring "Tammy Montgomery" was too long of a name to put on a single, Gordy changed it to "Tammi Terrell". He felt this name screamed "sex appeal". "I Can't Believe You Love Me" became Tammi Terrell's first Rythm&Blues top forty single, followed almost immediately by "Come On and See Me". In 1966, Tammi Terrell recorded two future classics, Stevie Wonder's "All I Do" and The Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine". Tammi Terrell joined the Motortown Revue after the release of her first single. During a tour in which she opened for The Temptations, Tammi Terrell met the band's lead singer David Ruffin and embarked on a torrid romance. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal. However, Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. This led to them having many public fights. Tammi ended their relationship in nineteen-sixty-seven after he hit her in the head with his motorcycle helmet. There are also rumors reported by others in Detroit such as by Ruffin's former road manager that Ruffin also hit Tammi Terrell in the head with a hammer, which further complicated her unknown condition.
In early nineteen-sixty-seven, Motown hired Tammi Terrell to sing duets with Marvin Gaye, who had achieved duet success with Mary Wells and Kim Weston as well as having recorded duets with Oma Heard. During recording sessions, Marvin Gaye would recall later that he did not realise how gifted Tammi Terrell was until they began singing together. At first the duets were recorded separately. For sessions of their first recording, the Ashford & Simpson composition, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", both Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded separate versions. Motown remixed the vocals and edited out the background vocals, giving just Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell vocal dominance. The song became a crossover pop hit in the spring of nineteen-sixty-seven, reaching number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Rythm&Blues charts and making Tammi Terrell a star. Their follow-up, "Your Precious Love", became an even bigger hit, reaching number five on the pop chart and number two on the Rythm&Blues chart. At the end of the year, the duo scored another top ten single with "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You", which peaked at number ten on the pop chart and number two on the Rythm&Blues chart. The song's B-side, the Marvin Gaye composition "If This World Were Mine", became a modest hit on both charts. Gaye would later cite the song as "one of Tammi's favorites". All four songs were included on Gaye and Tammi Terrell's first duet album, United, released in the late summer of nineteen-sixty-seven. Throughout that year, Gaye and Tammi Terrell began performing together and Tammi Terrell became a vocal and performance inspiration for the shy and laid-back Gaye, who hated live performing. The duo also performed together on television shows to their hits.
While Tammi Terrell was finally being established as a star, the migraines and headaches she had suffered from childhood were becoming more constant. While she complained of pains, she insisted to people close to her that she was well enough to perform. However, on October 14th, nineteen-sixty-seven, while performing with Gaye at Hampden–Sydney College, just outside the town of Farmville, Virginia, Tammi Terrell fell onstage; Marvin Gaye quickly responded by grabbing her by the arms and helping her offstage. Shortly after returning from Virginia, doctors diagnosed a malignant tumor on the right side of her brain.
After recovering from her first surgery, Tammi Terrell returned to Hitsville studios in Detroit and recorded "You're All I Need to Get By". Both that song and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", reached number one on the Rythm&Blues charts. Despite Tammi Terrell's optimism, her tumor worsened requiring more surgeries. By 1969, Tammi Terrell had retired from live performances as she had been ordered by doctors not to perform due to her tumors. Motown issued Tammi Terrell's first and only solo album, Irresistible, in early 1969. Tammi Terrell was too ill to promote the recordings. There was no new repertoire on the album: all tracks had been recorded earlier and had subsequently been shelved for some time.
Both Marvin Gaye and Valerie Simpson gave different stories on how the production of Tammi Terrell's and Gaye's third album together, Easy, went about. According to reports, Tammi Terrell had gotten so ill from her operations that she could not record, and Motown opted to have Valerie Simpson sub in for Tammi Terrell, a report that was repeated in the book Marvin Gaye: What's Going On and the Last Days of the Motown Sound. Gaye would later say the move was "another moneymaking scheme on Berry Gordy's part". Valerie Simpson, on the other hand, stated that the ailinimage of Tammi Terrellg Tammi Terrell was brought into the studio when she was strong enough to record over Simpson's guide vocals, insisting Tammi Terrell had sung on the album. Easy produced the singles "Good Lovin' Ain't Easy to Come By", "What You Gave Me", "California Soul" and the UK top ten hit, "The Onion Song". Late in 1969, Tammi Terrell made her final public appearance at the Apollo Theater where Marvin Gaye was performing. As soon as Tammi Terrell was spotted by Marvin Gaye, he rushed to her side and the duo began singing "You're All I Need to Get By" together. They were given a standing ovation by the audience.

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song: 'Sinner's Devotion' by Tammi Terrell