Wednesday 1 May 2024


On this day, April 29th, in Black Herstory 

In 1945, Tammi Terrell was born. She was a Black Rhythm & Blues singer.

She was born Thomasina Montgomery in Philadelphia, PA. After winning a number of local talent contests, by the age of 13 she was regularly opening club dates for Gary "U.S." Bonds and Patti LaBelle and the Blue Bells. In 1961 at the age of 15, she was discovered by producer Luther Dixon and signed to Specter/Wand Records. Credited as Tammy Montgomery, she made her debut with the song "If You See Bill".

In 1963, after James Brown caught her live show, she was signed to his Try Me label, issuing “I Cried.” One year later, while touring with Brown’s live revue "If I Would Marry You," appeared on Checker, during which time she also studied Pre-Med at the University of Pennsylvania. While performing with Jerry Butler in Detroit in 1965, Terrell was spotted by Harvey Fuqua.  He was introduced to Motown's Berry Gordy Jr., making her label debut with "I Can't Believe You Love Me," and other songs followed by "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Come on and See Me."

In 1967, Terrell was paired with Marvin Gaye, who previously recorded with Mary Wells and Kim Weston.  His chemistry with Terrell was immediate, and that year they entered the pop charts with the magnificent songs "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Your Precious Love. Later in 1967, Terrell began to have severe migraine headaches, and she collapsed in Gaye's arms while in concert at Virginia's Hampton-Sydney University; she was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Although the tumor forced Terrell to retire from performing live, she continued to record with Gaye and Her own album "Irresistible" in 1968. In 1969, Terrell's health was beginning to decline, and she could not finish her and Gaye’s third duet recording, Valerie Simpson sang on most of the recordings on the "Easy" album. The way that they sang together created an aura of romance and eroticism that led to persistent rumors that they were lovers. In All, Terrell endured eight operations, ultimately resulting in memory loss and partial paralysis; she died on March 16, 1970.

Her burial service attracted thousands of mourners, including many of her Motown Colleagues. Tammi Terrell was a contemporary vocal legend. Terrell and Gaye created some of the greatest love songs to emerge from Motown's hit factory.  (African American Registry, 2024)

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