Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering... Tammi Terrell

Tammi Terrell was both prettier than Diana Ross and had a better voice than Diana Ross; so what did Diana Ross have that made her a major star, while Terrell laboured in relative obscurity until her tragically early death?

PhotobucketThe short answer, of course, is 'Berry Gordy's dick inside her', but given that the long answer is 'Berry Gordy's dick way up inside her' doesn't even begin to address either the unfairness that is the music industry or the epic unfairness that was Motown Records, let alone the most unfair thing of all - namely life.

Had Terrell not succumbed to a brain tumour on this day in 1970 - at the age of only 24 - she might be performing still as her chief rival continues to innovate her own brand of crazy. The point is, we will never know; still, it's pondering those unknowables that keeps things interesting around the Pop Culture Institute.

In the meantime, Terrell's music lives on; her duets with another tragic Motown star named Marvin Gaye set the standard for the Motown sound. Following the death of his lovely young singing partner - and at the height of his career - Gaye took a hiatus; when he finally re-emerged from his grief he'd produced his 1971 album What's Going On, which was a major hit, and thought to be inspired by her death.

Tammi's story is told in the memoir My Sister Tommie, written by Terrell's sister Ludie Montgomery (with Vickie Wright).

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