b. Tomasina Winifred Montgomery (a.k.a. Tammy Montgomery), 29th April 1945, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
d. 16th March 1970, Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
She was the eldest of two children.
Her parents were Thomas Montgomey (in politics), and the brother of Boxer Bob Montogmery, and her mother Jennie Montgomery who was an actress.
Tomasina changed her name to 'Tammy', after the name of a song by the actress Debbie Reynolds, which she liked a great deal at the time.
Tammy was a student at Philadelphia's Germantown High School in the early 60's.
Shortly after graduation, she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where her High School grades brought her a full scholarship grant.
She won her first talent contest at the age of 11 in New Jersey.
By the age of 13 Tammy had performed alongside the likes of Gary 'U.S.' Bonds and Patti Labelle and the BlueBelles.
At the age of 15 she was first discovered, and approached to record and sign a contract, by Luther Dixon who signed her to Wand Records in New York.
Recording under the name of Tammy Montgomery, her first release for the label was, 'If You See Bill' b/w 'It's Mine', which was released on Scepter 1224 in 1961.
voice of experience - single 1962 / this time tomorrow - single 1964
'Voice of Experience' b/w 'I Want'cha To Be Sure' was released in 1962, on the Wand imprint.
Her final single as Tammy Montgomery was the Bert Berns produced, 'If I Would Marry You' b/w 'This Time Tommorrow' on "Checker" in 1964.
i cried / if you dont' think - single 1964
In 1965, she was spotted by Berry Gordy Jr. whilst playing live, and he signed Tammy to his Motown label.
Tammi underwent a change of name, on arriving at the label, at the suggestion of Berry (who had also organised some dental work for her).
tammi & marvin
In 1966 she enjoyed a series of hits at the label, amongst them a soulful rendition of 'This Old Heart Of Mine'.
From 1967 onwards she recorded a series of duets with Marvin, producing hits with Ashford & Simpson penned tunes such as 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', 'Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing' and 'You're All I Need to Get By'.
united - 1967 / you're all i need - 1968
easy - 1969 / come on and see me - single 1969
Tammi recorded three duets albums with Marvin ('United' in 1967, 'You're All I Need To Get By' in 1968' and 'Easy' in 1969).
Disaster then struck when Tammi collapsed in Marvin's arms during a homecoming performance at the Virginia's Hampton-Syndey College in 1967.
She was diagnosed as suffering from a brain tumor resulting from a contusion.
The first real clue to Tammi's headaches was provided by her personal dentist, Dr. Herbert Rose, who noticed as she sat in his chair to have a tooth filled that one entire side of her face was sagging, the doctor called her mother and she taken to hospital.
Tammi underwent eight operations in total, all of which were paid for by Berry Gordy Jr.
Her family witnessed her becoming a shadow of her former self, physically.
She was confined to a wheelchair, suffered from blindness, hair loss and she suffered a drastic loss in weight, reaching at one point a mere 93 lbs.
Following her first operation she was so anxious to get back to work, she accepted a club engagement despite a warning from her doctor that she wasn't ready to go back on stage.
By 1969, she was unable to perform in public, and on several of the duo's final recordings, their producer, Valerie Simpson, is (allegedly) reported to have taken her place (although Valerie disputes this assertion).
the early show - 1969 / irresistable - 1969
The same year saw the release of a duets album with Chuck Jackson called 'The Early Show' (a series of earlier Wand recordings).
She released her only solo album 'Irresistable' the same year (which comprised of several tracks recorded in previous years).
One of these tracks, 'The Onion Song', proved to be the most successful of the Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell singles in the U.K.
On the 16th of March 1970, Tammi Terrell died from complications as a result of the brain tumour. She was only 24.
Thousands of fans mourned her death and attended her funeral, and she was laid to rest in the Mount Lawn Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Marvin Gaye took the passing of Tammi very badly, encouraging audiences to speak to her through his microphone during live performances, following her passing.
He retired from performing for a while, resurfacing with the classic 'What's Going On' album in 1971.
Her death has been the subject of much speculation, centred on rumours that her brain disorders were triggered by alleged beatings administered by a member of a major Motown group.
These (alleged) accusations were given voice in 'Number One With A Bullet', a novel by former Marvin Gaye aide Elaine Jesmer, which included a character (allegedly) based upon Tammi Terrell.
tammi & marvin
tammi & marvin
with Marvin Gaye:
United (Tamla Motown Records 1967)
You're All I Need (Tamla Motown Records 1968)
Easy (Tamla Motown Records 1969)
with Chuck Jackson:
The Early Show (Wand Records 1969)
Irresistible Tammy (Motown Records 1969)