Sent From Above
Motown suffered a devastating blow with the death of Tammi Terrell on March 16, 1970. At only twenty-four years old, Tammi had risen to considerable fame not only through her ubiquitous duets with Marvin Gaye, but also through her soulful solo work. Born in Philadelphia, Thomasina Montgomery began her venture into singing at her local church and was only thirteen when she opened for Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Patti Labelle. A record deal came when producer Luther Dixon noticed and signed her to Scepter Records in 1960, when she was fifteen. Her debut single, “If You See Bill” b/w “It’s Mine,” was released under the name Tammy Montgomery, as she was known when Mr. James Brown stumbled upon her in 1962. “I Cried” b/w “If You Don’t Think,” her third single, was created under the artistic direction of Brown, who had signed her to Try Me Records. She would record for Checker Records in 1964, but elusive chart success encouraged the young starlet to consider enrolling as a pre-med student until she was discovered by Berry Gordy in 1965. She had been performing with “Ice Man” Jerry Butler when Mr. Motown approached her, and recorded “I Can’t Believe You Love Me,” “Come on and See Me,” “This Old Heart of Mine,” and “Tears At the End of a Love Affair” as Tammi Terrell. Her breakthrough came in 1967 when Gordy paired her with labelmate Marvin Gaye and released “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as their first single. “Your Precious Love” came next and Tammi’s celebrity status was cemented, only to be handicapped by migraines caused by a cancerous brain tumor. Her health became an enormous obstacle in her blossoming career, and many of her vocals on the duo’s album Easy had to be ghost-sung. Her untimely death devastated Gaye, who took a hiatus from performing in order to grieve a death which he had partially placed on his own shoulders. In rememberance of the Motown siren we lost too soon, watch the video below to hear what Gaye said was her favorite song of theirs, “If This World Were Mine.”
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