Marvin Gaye was arguably Motown’s biggest star in the early era, and his string of charted hits reads like a primer for the ‘60s and ‘70s. Even his pairings with other singers like Mary Wells, Diana Ross and Kim Weston were successful, the label playing Gaye’s rich voice against the elegance of his partner. But when Motown’s brilliant wizard Harvey Fuqua paired Gaye with little known Tammi Terrell—well, that was just plain magic.
Motown Records already boasted songwriters like Smokey Robinson, Holland-Dozier-Holland and Berry Gordy himself, so Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson were mere bench players as they came on board in Detroit. But their words and music found the perfect vehicle with Gaye and Terrell’s emotional duets. How they managed to make every song sound like intimate foreplay and innocent purity at the same time is beyond me, but that’s what made them so special. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Your Precious Love” are the soundtrack to an era long gone but fondly remembered. This collection contains 11 tracks from three albums, plus a previously unreleased B-side (“Two Can Have A Party”).
Their chemistry was so strong, and their live performances so affectionate, that everyone mistakenly assumed they were a couple. While they were fond of each other, what audiences really were seeing was two singers humbly in awe of each other. Tammi Terrell tragically died of a brain tumor at age 24; Marvin Gaye’s senseless shooting death occurred just as his latest career resurgence seemed to give him some inner peace. It’s hard to believe that an entire generation has passed since their voices so soulfully and joyously teased and danced together.
// Notes from the Road
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