Tammi Terrell was one of Motown’s brightest stars, but she had a deeply tragic life.
She had relationships with James Brown and Temptation David Ruffin, both of whom abused her terribly. Brown beat her so severely that she bled; Ruffin hit her in the head with a motorcycle helmet.
She really found her stride in duets she did with Marvin Gaye. Of those, the greatest was probably Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, which they recorded in 1967.
The chemistry in this video is amazing. Although Terrell and Gaye were never romantically involved, they were very close friends and cared for each other deeply, and it shows.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough came out in 1967 as noted above. When they were performing it later in the year at Hampden-Sidney College, Terrell collapsed in Gaye’s arms.
She was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After eight operations, which were surely crude by today’s standards, she died in 1970. She was just 24.
It was a devastating blow for Gaye, who fell into depression and drug abuse. The silver lining was that her loss indirectly led to Gaye’s brilliant and still fresh album What’s Goin’ On.