Tammi Terrell

It was 50 years ago this week that Tammi Terrell passed away.

She began her career in 1962 after she was discovered by the R&B singer Luther Dixon. She was enlisted to record demos for The Shirelles and later joined James Brown’s Revue show. On her 20th birthday, she signed a contract with Motown records and it was Berry who changed her name from her real name, Thomasina Winifred Montgomery to Terrell.

She was involved in a very abusive relationship with James Brown and after leaving him accepted a marriage proposal from Temptations lead singer David Ruffin only to find out he was already married.

Her biggest success came in 1968/69 when she, like Diana Ross, became one of Marvin Gaye’s regular singing partners. They charted six duets the biggest being their later hit, The Onion Song although Tammi didn’t actually sing on the record due to ill health. The female vocal on that track was Valerie Simpson.

In 1969, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and in early 1970, she was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from blindness. She slipped into a coma which she never came out of and died on 16th March 1970, aged just 24.

Let’s remember this lady by the wonderful duet with her closest friend, Marvin Gaye.

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