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 seven Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By". Terrell's career was interrupted when she collapsed into Gaye's arms as the two performed at Hampden-Sydney College on October 14, 1967 concert, with Terrell later being diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had eight unsuccessful operations before succumbing to the illness on March 16, 1970 at the age of 24. Childhood edit: Terrell was born as Thomasina Montgomery in Philadelphia to Jennie and Thomas Montgomery. Jennie was an actress and Thomas was a politician. Tammi was the eldest of two. According to the Unsung documentary, her younger sister Ludie Marianna said that they had thought 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 12. Starting around this time, 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. Career edit: Early recordings edit: Before turning 15, 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. After another single, 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" on Brown's Try Me Records. After this tenure ended, Terrell signed with Checker Records and released the Bert Berns produced duet, "If I Would Marry You" with Jimmy Radcliffe, in which Terrell co-composed herself. Following this relative failure, 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, 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 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. Terrell agreed and signed with the label on April 29, 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 Terrell's first R&B top forty single, followed almost immediately by "Come On and See Me". In 1966, Terrell recorded two future classics, Stevie Wonder's "All I Do (Is Think About You)" and The Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)". Terrell joined the Motortown Revue after the release of her first single. During a tour in which she opened for The Temptations, Terrell met the band's lead singer David Ruffin and embarked on a torrid romance. Success with Marvin Gaye and cancer diagnosis edit: Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Gaye By early 1967, Marvin Gaye had seen three singers he recorded duets with - Mary Wells, Kim Weston and Oma Page - leave Motown. Figuring Terrell could benefit, Gordy asked Terrell to sing duets with Gaye, which she agreed. Gaye later recalled that he didn't know how musically and vocally gifted Terrell was until they began recording duets 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 Gaye and Terrell recorded separate versions. Motown remixed the vocals and edited out the background vocals, giving just Gaye and Terrell vocal dominance. The song, originally written for Dusty Springfield, became a crossover pop hit in the spring of 1967, reaching number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the R&B charts, making Terrell a star. Their follow-up hit, "Your Precious Love", became an even bigger hit reaching number five on the pop chart, and number-two on the R&B chart. In late 1967, the duo scored a third 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 R&B chart. The song's B-side, the Marvin Gaye composition, "If This World Were Mine", became a modest hit on both charts, reaching number sixty-eight on the pop chart and number twenty-seven on the R&B chart. Gaye would later cite the song as "one of Tammi's favorites". All four songs were included on Gaye and Terrell's first duet album, United, released in the late summer of 1967. Throughout that year, Gaye and Terrell began performing together and Terrell became a vocal and performance inspiration for the shy and laid-back Gaye, who hated live performing. The duo even performed together on TV shows to their hits. While Terrell was finally being established as a star, the migraines and headaches that she suffered with as a child 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 14, 1967, while performing with Gaye at Hampden-Sydney College, just outside the town of Farmville, Virginia, Terrell fell and buckled onstage; 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. External audio You may listen to Tammi Terrell & Marvin Gaye sing "Ain't no Mountain High Enough" here After recovering from her first operation, 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 R&B charts. Despite Terrell's optimism, her tumor got worse requiring more operations. By 1969, Terrell had retired from live performances as she had been ordered by doctors not to perform due to her tumors. Both Marvin Gaye and Valerie Simpson gave different stories on how the production of Terrell's and Gaye's third album together, Easy, was released. According to reports, Terrell had gotten so ill from her operations that she couldn't record and once Motown opted to have Valerie Simpson sub in for Terrell, a report that was repeated on 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 BG's part". Valerie Simpson stated that while Terrell was sick, she was brought into the studio to record over Simpson's guide vocals, insisting Terrell 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, Terrell made her final public appearance at the Apollo Theater where Marvin Gaye was headlining the bill. As soon as Terrell was spotted by Gaye, he rushed to her side and the duo began singing "You're All I Need to Get By" together. Motown issued Terrell's first and only solo album, Irresistible, also released in 1969. Terrell was too ill and sick to promote the recordings. Personal life edit: 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 boys were arrested and convicted on a rape charge. 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. Though they never dated, Terrell had been romantically interested in singer Sam Cooke and she 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 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. Nevertheless they were reported as having opposite personalities: Gaye being shy and introvert, Terrell being streetwise and extrovert. What they shared was their charisma as a performing couple and their sense of humour. 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. Death edit: By early 1970 Terrell was confined to a wheelchair, suffered from blindness and hair loss, and weighed a scant 93 lb. Following her eighth and final operation on January 25, 1970, Terrell went into a coma for the remaining month and a half of her life. On March 16, Terrell died of complications from brain cancer. She was six weeks short of her 25th birthday. Her funeral was held at the Jane Methodist Church in Philadelphia. At the funeral, Gaye delivered a final eulogy while "You're All I Need to Get By" was playing. According to Terrell's fiancé, Dr. Garrett, who knew Gaye, her mother angrily barred everyone at Motown but Gaye from her funeral. Aftermath edit: Already depressed from the first diagnosis of her illness back in late 1967 and from her onstage collapse, Marvin Gaye further withdrew from performing following Terrell's death, re-emerging two years later performing during a benefit concert at the then newly-opened Kennedy Center at Washington, D.C. in May 1972. Terrell's mother criticized Motown for not helping with Terrell's illness accusing the label for covering up the singer's condition releasing albums of Terrell's work without her consent. Gaye had also contended that he felt Motown was taking advantage of Terrell's illness and refused to promote the Easy album despite Motown telling him it would cover Terrell's health expenses. Gaye never fully got over Terrell's death, according to several biographers who have stated that Terrell's death led Gaye to depression and drug abuse. 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. In July 1970, four months after Terrell's untimely passing, a dramatic rearrangement of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", was released by Diana Ross, becoming a number-one hit and one of Ross' signature songs. On October 8, 2010, Hip-O Select released Come On And See Me: The Complete Solo Collection, a collection of all of Terrell's solo work dating back to high school, plus never before released songs and 13 minutes of the only known live stage recordings.