Taraji P. Henson Would Be Perfect To Play Tammi Terrell In The Compelling Story Of Her Life

| February 7, 2016 | 0 Comments

Taraji P. Henson in color and Motown singer Tammi Terrell in black and white.

Tammi Terrell’s life story is very compelling and will most certainly be a great novel or the perfect biopic.

Taraji P. Henson is not only the spitting image of Terrell but with her dramatic range she could bolster the 60s star’s story to even more amazing heights on the big screen.

Tammie Terrell died in 1970. She was a singer and actress just like Taraji P. Henson who was born just 6 months after her death.

Most know Tammi Terrell from her legendary duets with fellow Motown artist Marvin Gaye. The two rhythm and blues singers recorded more than a dozen songs together in the 60’s including Songs like “Aint No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, and “Aint Nothing Like The Real Thing.”

The two were the darlings of the music industry until her promising career was cut short as she died March 16, 1970 of cancer at only 24-years of age.

But in those 24 years Tammi Terrell had an incredible and sad tumultuous life that included being gang raped at 11, and abusive relationships with James Brown and David Ruffin, who allegedly, hit her across the head with a motorcycle helmet.

But, it is her musical legacy and her signature duets with Marvin Gaye that she will be remembered, a legacy that will live on forever.

In her memories about her famous sister, Ludie Montgomery writes in her book: “My Sister Tommie-The Real Tammi Terrell” that Terrell was the victim of sexual molestation by three boys after leaving a neighborhood party at the age of eleven. The boys were arrested and convicted on a rape charge. The incident led to a change in Terrell’s behavior. During her early career, Terrell dated many men both in the music business and out. Though they never dated, Terrell had been romantically interested in singer Sam Cooke and she had a budding friendship with Gene Chandler. In 1962 at age 17, she signed with James Brown and the two engaged in a sexual relationship. However, this relationship turned out to be abusive. After a horrific incident with Brown backstage after a show[clarification needed] Terrell asked Chandler, who had witnessed the incident first hand, to take her to the bus station so she could go home. He later called Terrell’s mother to pick her up. This ended Terrell’s two-year affair with Brown.

In 1965, Terrell began a romance with then-Temptations singer David Ruffin. The following year, Ruffin surprised Terrell with a marriage proposal. However, Terrell was devastated once she learned that Ruffin had a wife and three children and another girlfriend, also living in Detroit. This led to the couple having public fights. Though it was later claimed that Ruffin had hit Terrell with a hammer and a machete, these claims were denied by Terrell’s family and her Motown label mates, though Ludie Montgomery confirmed a story that Terrell was hit on the side of her face by Ruffin’s motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967.

After signing with Motown, she began friendships with some of the label’s artists. One of her closest friends was her duet partner, Marvin Gaye, with whom she had a close platonic relationship. Though it’s often alleged their relationship grew into a brief romance, those close to the singers denied this claim. Ashford & Simpson, and Gaye in later years, stated the relationship was almost sibling-like. Nevertheless they were reported as having opposite personalities: Gaye being shy and introvert, Terrell being streetwise and extrovert. What they shared was their charisma as a performing couple and their sense of humor. Gaye would later call Terrell “sweet” and “misunderstood” and stated that Terrell was his “perfect [musical] partner”. At the time of her death she was engaged to be married to Ernest Garrett, a doctor at Terrell’s hospital but not her personal doctor.

By early 1970 Terrell was confined to a wheelchair, suffered from blindness and hair loss, and weighed a scant 93 pounds (42 kg). Following her eighth and final operation on January 25, 1970, Terrell went into a coma. She died on March 16 due to complications from brain cancer, a month shy of her 25th birthday.

Terrell’s funeral was held at the Janes Methodist Church in Philadelphia. At the funeral, Gaye delivered a final eulogy while “You’re All I Need to Get By” was playing. According to Terrell’s fiancé Dr. Garrett, who knew Gaye, her mother angrily barred everyone at Motown from her funeral except for Gaye, who she felt was Terrell’s closest friend.

Late in 1969, Terrell made her final public appearance at the Apollo Theater where Marvin Gaye was performing. As soon as Terrell was spotted by Gaye, he rushed to her side and the duo began singing “You’re All I Need to Get By” together. They were given an ovation by the public.

Gaye never fully got over Terrell’s death, according to several biographers who have stated that Terrell’s death led Gaye to depression and drug abuse. In addition, Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On, an introspective, low-key work which dealt with mature themes released in 1971, was in part a reaction to Terrell’s death. In July 1970, four months after Terrell’s untimely death, a dramatic rearrangement of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, was released by Diana Ross, becoming a number-one hit and one of Ross’ signature songs.

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About the Author ()

Darnell Moore has extensively studied music and urban culture both academically and professionally for over 20 years. His writings and posts have appeared in many major urban publications. Moore is the founder and creator of Memoirs of an Urban Gentleman. Contact him , http://darnellmmusic@gmail.com/ or https://twitter.com/@darnellmmusic/

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