Some books/articles give her birthdate as January 24, 1946; the authors probably misread a handwritten 4/29/45 as 1/24/46. But, having heard from someone who knew her and attended her funeral, I now know that 4/29/45 is the correct date. Anyway, Tammi (or Tommie, as her family knew her) was the older of two children born in Philadelphia to Thomas Montgomery (brother of boxer Bob Montgomery) and Jennie Montgomery (an actress). The younger child was a sister, Ludie (now also her biographer). Tammi began her singing career in 1960 with a contract with Scepter/Wand Records. She also recorded a few songs, including "I Cried," that were produced by James Brown, whose own hits include "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)." Until 1964 she toured with his Revue and was also his girlfriend. In 1965 she signed with Motown and became romantically involved with David Ruffin of the Temptations. Ludie confirms that Tammi received abuse from both Brown and Ruffin. Contrary to popular belief (CTPB), she was never married to boxer Ernie Terrell (although she was engaged during the last year of her life to one Dr. Ernest Garrett). Instead, she adopted the last name Terrell because it was shorter than Montgomery. Then, in 1967, she met the man on whose coattails she rode into fame--Marvin Gaye. Their duets include "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Your Precious Love" (both from their first album together, United). Also CTPB, they were not lovers in real life; however, they were as close as people who are just friends can be. Symptoms of a malignant brain tumor came when she collapsed onstage while dueting with Marvin in the fall of 1967 at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia (not to be confused with Hampton University, also in Virginia). Two more duet albums were released over the next two years. Half the songs from the second album, You're All I Need, were real duets, but the rest were Tammi solo recordings to which Marvin's vocals were added. Two tracks from the third album, Easy, also were overdubs (even a few United songs were overdubs; this helped Motown keep studio expenses down); on the rest of Easy, the authenticity of the female vocals is in dispute. On one hand, Marvin alleged to his biographer David Ritz that songwriter-producer Valerie Simpson susbstituted for Tammi; on the other hand, Ludie quotes Simpson and co-writer/producer Nickolas Ashford as saying that Tammi really did sing on those specific songs, albeit with great difficulty. Eight brain surgeries failed to save her; the tumor continued to worsen until it ended her life. Her grave is at Mount Lawn Cemetery, northwest of Philadelphia International Airport. Besides Ludie, Tammi is survived by Ludie's sons, Kirk and Donald; and Kirk's 3 children. All still live in Philly.
Marvin was so crushed by Tammi's illness and death that he sequestered himself from the studio from late 1969 until 1971, and from the stage until 1972. Worse yet, her illness and death prevented her from realizing her potential as a solo artist. Besides "I Cried," her solo songs included "I Can't Believe You Love Me" and "Come On And See Me." None of them were big hits, but some of them were compiled into an LP, Irresistible, which was released in 1969. I have 21 solo songs and 8 Marvin duets on the CD The Story of Tammi Terrell. Along with a review of the disc, I, Collins Crapo, dedicate this site on the World Wide Web to the loving memory of Tammi Terrell.
This article, courtesy of its author, John Pumilia, supplements my words above.
I wrote a song in her memory, "Liberty Belle." Click here to hear me sing it or here for the lyrics and chords.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION: Where can I buy a CD of Tammi's solo songs?
The Story of Tammi Terrell is available from Soul Searching Plus in the UK. Or you can buy The Essential Tammi Terrell from SSP or from Amazon or its variant in Canada. Some precious solo gems are also included on the 2-disc set of Marvin and Tammi's Complete Duets, available from Amazon. As a member of BMG Music Service, I've also seen it listed there.
NEWSFLASH, 11/18/2008: For a background on these pages, I used to use a light-shaded version of the logo I invented for Tammi (the green and black square with the red letter T). But after some people complained about not being able to read the site because of that background, I've replaced it with a solid light-green background. Maybe the logo appeared darker on their screens than on mine, but I did get rid of it on all pages except the sign/view pages for Ludie's guestbook.
Ludie wrote a book about Tammi. Buy it either at Amazon (or a variant in Canada) or at Barnes & Noble.
Want buttons with the same cover art as the book? Then visit Darlene's Buttons.
If you have other questions or comments, you may write to Ludie, read what others have written to her, or sign or view my own guestbook. Or you may e-mail me, but please write Tammi Terrell in the subject line, or I won't receive it.