After escaping an abusive relationship with James Brown, Tammi began a volatile relationship with David Ruffin, the lead singer of the Temptations, in 1965. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal.
However, when she announced their engagement on stage Davis became upset. Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. His drug use and infidelity led to them having public fights. Tammi was portrayed in the Temptations movie during the Motown picnic scene. It was claimed that
with a hammer or a machete, though this was denied by
Tammi’s family. Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled seeing David beat up Tammi at the Motown
“Hitsville U.S.A.” headquarters. Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that David hit Tammi in the face with his motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967. Tammi went on to record classic duets with Marvin Gaye, but she unfortunately died from a brain tumor at the age of 24 in 1970. David died of a drug overdose in 1991.
Known for her duets with Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery on
April 29, 1945 in Philadelphia. Her younger sister says Tammi was raped by three boys when she only 11 years old. In 1960, she signed to a record label where she recorded a couple of singles. She left that label to sign on with James Brown where she began singing back up in his revue. Even though she was only 17, Tammi became sexually involved
relationship with James who was almost 30. One night on the road Tammi left him after getting mercilessly beaten. In 1963, her first charting single “I Cried” reached #99 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Frustrated with her failure, she decided to quit the music business and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where she spent the next two years as a pre-med major.
In 1965, on her 20th birthday, she signed on with Berry Gordy who changed her professional name to Tammi Terrell. During the Motown Revue tour which she opened for The Temptations, Tammi began a volatile relationship with the lead singer David Ruffin. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal. However, Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. This led to them having public fights. It is claimed that Ruffin hit
with a hammer and a machete, though these claims were denied by
Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled David beating up Tammi in the Hitsville building.
Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that Tammi was hit in the face by Ruffin’s motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967.
In 1967 Tammi began recording with Marvin Gaye, they a close platonic relationship and the duo released a string of hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love”. While performing live with Marvin at Hampden-Sydney College she collapsed and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Following the surgery in 1970, Tammi slipped into a coma and died on March 16, just weeks before her 25th birthday.
Tammi Terrell performing at the University of Michigan in 1967.
Young, beautiful, vivacious, musically talented Tammi Terrell appeared to have a bright future in the music business in 1967, when she appeared at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium with the Motown Revue. After surviving abusive relationships with James Brown and David Ruffin, she made a series of top 40 duet hits with Marvin Gaye. Sadly, Tammi was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1967, which she succumbed to at the age of 24 in 1970.
On this day in music history: December 4, 1965 – “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on December 18, 1965. Written and produced by James Brown, it is the third R&B chart topper for the artist known as “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business”. The “hit” version of the song is recorded by Brown on May 6, 1965 at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL. He had previously recorded the song in September 1964 for release on Smash Records. Brown’s label King Records blocks the release of the earlier version, though that does not stop the momentum of the record. Alan Leeds, then a disc jockey at WANT-AM in Richmond, VA (later James Browns’ road manager and also later works in the same capacity for Prince), dubs the song off of TV when Brown performs the song on the variety show “Where The Action Is”. Demand for the record skyrockets, forcing King Records to rush out the newly recorded second version of the song as a single. Released in October of 1965 on the heels of his breakout crossover smash “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, “I Got You” quickly races up the R&B and pop charts simultaneously. Brown also performs the earlier version in the Frankie Avalon film “Ski Party” released earlier in 1965, which is recreated in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up”. In later years, The song is featured in the films “Good Morning Vietnam”, “The Nutty Professor” and quoted by actor Chris Rock (as Rodney the Guinea Pig) in “Dr. Dolittle”. James Brown’s recording of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2013.
On this day in music history: November 15, 1985 – “Living In America” by James Brown is released. Written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight, it is the one hundred seventy fifth single release by the R&B music icon from Barnwell, SC. Though respected as one of the most influential musicians of all time, by the 80’s most consider James Brown’s best years to be behind him. The “Godfather Of Soul” lands his last big R&B hit with “Get Up Offa That Thing” in 1976, and on the pop top ten hit with “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”, in 1968. Though managing to stay in the public eye appearing in the films “The Blues Brothers” and “Doctor Detroit”, there is very little else to suggest that he will reclaim any of his former glory. In 1984, Brown duets with Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa on the single “Unity” (#87 R&B). During this time, Brown is approached by Sylvester Stallone to make an appearance in “Rocky IV”, the fourth installment of the lucrative franchise, and Brown signs on. Originally a member of the Edgar Winter Group in the 70’s, Dan Hartman establishes himself as solo star later in the decade with the disco classics “Instant Replay”, “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” as well as producing singer Loleatta Holloway (“Love Sensation”). Hartman is hired to write a song for the “Rocky IV” soundtrack after hitting with “I Can Dream About You” (#6 Pop) from the film “Streets Of Fire”. Hartman and writing partner Charlie Midnight successfully capture Brown’s spirit in the funky up tempo “Living In America”, with James demonstrating that he is still “The Godfather”, even name checking comedian Eddie Murphy, who had lampooned Brown in his stand up act. He performs the song as Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) enters the ring to fight Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). With the film becoming an instant smash during its Thanksgiving weekend release in 1985, “Living In America” gets swept up in the fervor. The song and film help introduce James Brown to a new and younger audience who are unfamiliar with his past work. It gives the singer his biggest hit in many years peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the R&B chart in early 1986. It also wins Brown a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1987, his first since winning in that category previously in 1966 for “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”.Its success leads him signing with Scotti Brothers Records. Also included on the album “Gravity”, James has even greater R&B chart success in 1988 with the follow up “I’m Real” produced by Full Force. That album spins off hits with the title track (#2 R&B) and “Static” (#5 R&B), playing off of Brown’s major influence on rap music, Hip Hop culture and dance music, as his music is being widely sampled. “America” is also parodied by “Weird Al” Yanokovic in 1986 as “Living With A Hernia.