Tammi Terrell born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery

Tammi Terrell (born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery; April 29, 1945 — March 16, 1970) was an American recording artist, best known as a star singer for Motown Records during the 1960s, most notably for a series of duets with singer Marvin Gaye. Terrell's career began as a teenager, first recording for Scepter/Wand Records, before spending nearly two years as a member of James Brown's Revue, recording for Brown's Try Me label.

After a period attending college, Terrell recorded briefly for Checker Records, before signing with Motown in 1965. With Gaye, Terrell scored 7 Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need to Get By".

Terrell's career was interrupted after a late 1967 concert resulted in the singer collapsing in the arms of Gaye as the two performed, later resulting in her being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Terrell would have eight unsuccessful operations before succumbing to the illness on March 16, 1970 at the age of 24.

In her memoirs about her famous sister, Ludie Montgomery writes that Terrell was the victim of sexual molestation by three boys after leaving a neighborhood party at the age of eleven. The incident led to a change in Terrell's behavior. During her early career, Terrell dated many men both in the music business and out.

 David Ruffin and Tammi

Though they never dated, Terrell had been romantically interested in singer Sam Cooke and Terrell had a budding friendship with Gene Chandler. In 1962, at 17, she signed with James Brown and the two engaged in a sexual relationship.

However, this relationship turned out to be abusive. After a horrific incident with Brown backstage after a show, Terrell asked Chandler, who witnessed the incident first hand, to take her to the bus station so she could go home. He later called Terrell's mother to pick her up. This ended Terrell's two-year affair with Brown.

In 1965, Terrell forged on a romance with then-Temptations lead singer David Ruffin. The following year, Ruffin surprised Terrell with a marriage proposal. However, Terrell was devastated once she learned that Ruffin had a wife and three children and another girlfriend, also living in Detroit.

This led to the couple having public fights. Though it was later claimed that Ruffin had hit Terrell with a hammer and a machete, these claims were denied by Terrell's family and her Motown label mates, though Ludie Montgomery confirmed a story that Terrell was hit on the side of her face by Ruffin's motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967.

After signing with Motown, she forged friendships with some of the label's artists. One of her closest was with her duet partner, Marvin Gaye, with whom she had a close platonic affair. Though it's often alleged their relationship grew into a brief romance, those close to the singers denied this claim.

Ashford & Simpson, and Gaye in later years, stated the relationship was almost sibling-like. Gaye would later call Terrell "sweet" and "misunderstood" and stated that Terrell was his "perfect [musical] partner". At the time of her death, she was engaged to be married to Ernest Garrett, who was a doctor at Terrell's hospital but not her personal doctor.

By early 1970, Terrell had been forced to be confined to a wheelchair, suffered from blindness, hair loss and weighed a scant 93 lbs. Following her eighth and final operation on January 25, 1970, 
Terrell relapsed into a coma where she would remain for the next month and a half of her life.

On March 16, Terrell died of complications from brain cancer. She was a month and two weeks short of her 25th birthday.
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1 comment:

Stue1967 said...

Tammi had a wonderful voice. I've just blogged about her and James Brown here which you may enjoy https://blackcountryrock.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/five-cds-from-beatties-no-2-the-cd-of-jb/

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