Tammi Terrell: Remembering Motown's Lost Star Terrell was perhaps best known for her duet work with Marvin Gaye, but the young singer released solo recordings before they'd ever collaborated. These solo recordings have been collected on a new anthology called Come On and See Me.
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Tammi Terrell: Remembering Motown's Lost Star

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Tammi Terrell: Remembering Motown's Lost Star

Review

Music

Tammi Terrell: Remembering Motown's Lost Star

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Motown artist Tammi Terrell was just 24 when she died of a brain tumor in 1970. But she was already a star, thanks to her duets with Marvin Gaye, including Aint No Mountain High Enough. Even before her big break with Gaye, Terrell had a promising solo career. Now for the first time, her solo recordings have been collected into an anthology. It's called Come On and See Me.

Oliver Wang has our review.

OLIVER WANG: Tammi Terrell was a Philly girl who became a star performing on local television before being discovered by Scepter Records in 1960.

Born Thomasina Montgomery, she recorded as Tammy Montgomery, barely 15 when Scepter put her to work covering Shirelles songs.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified People: (singing) I know, I know, I know, yes, I know. I know he will never be true.

WANG: Bubblegum, however, was not the teenagers strong suit. Montgomery possessed a preternaturally mature voice that not only could belt with the best of them, but her volume was matched with a sophisticated sense of phrasing that laid the groundwork for such later singers as Dionne Warwick.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #1: (singing) (Unintelligible).

WANG: This early phase of Montgomerys career yielded a number of impressive singles, and if all you know of the singers work are her duets with Marvin Gaye, its worth revisiting her recordings with other R&B talents, including her one-time boyfriend, James Brown.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TAMMI TERRELL (Singer): (Singing) If you don't think that I (unintelligible), now if you know think that, no, you better change. You better change.

WANG: Motowns Berry Gordy heard Montgomery in a Detroit club in 1965, signed her and renamed the singer Tammi Terrell. In 1967, producer Harvey Fuqua struck upon the idea of pairing Terrell with his protege, Marvin Gaye.

Their vocal chemistry was instantly compelling, despite the fact that they tracked most of their early hits during separate recording sessions. Heres Terrell singing her half of Aint No Mountain High Enough with an uncredited male vocalist serving as a placeholder for Gaye.

(Soundbite of song, "Aint No Mountain High Enough")

Ms. TERRELL and Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Ain't no mountain high, ain't no valley low, ain't no river wide enough, baby. If you need me, call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far. Just call my name, I'll be there in a hurry. You don't have to worry 'cuz baby there ain't no mountain high enough, ain't...

WANG: Terrell fell ill in late 1967, and Motown fixated on cranking out more duets, giving short shrift to her solo work. Even on Irresistible, her lone Motown LP, the label cannibalized some of the solo songs and remixed them into duets.

Motown also mothballed some of her best tracks, including this Stevie Wonder-penned gem that Terrell recorded in 1966 but went unreleased for decades.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TERRELL: (Singing) You made my (unintelligible). You're getting to be my one desire. You're getting to be all that matters to me.

WANG: Terrells death at 24 is one of soul musics great tragedies, and its impossible not to wonder what her career, and Gayes, might have been under better circumstances.

Nevertheless, the new collection, Come On and See Me finally presents her full range of talent and personality and assures Terrell will never be left forgotten or forsaken.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. TERRELL: (Singing) Don't let me be someone who's left alone, forgotten and forsaken. Just let me be...

BLOCK: Our reviewer Oliver Wang runs the audio blog SoulSides.com.

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