Archive for Berry Gordy

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2011 by 30daysout

Wrapping up our duets albums just in time for Valentine’s Day: today we spin the Motown/Tamla classic You’re All I Need, by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, from 1968.

Marvin Gaye was an established star at the Detroit label Motown when he was asked to cut a duet with a female singer in 1967.  Gaye, who had giant hits way back in 1965 with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “Ain’t That Peculiar,” Gaye recorded “It Takes Two” with singer Kim Weston for Motown’s Tamla label in ’67.

Written and produced by William “Mickey” Stevenson (also Weston’s husband), the song wasn’t Gaye’s first duet but at that time it was his most successful.  It also made him an international star by going to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.  But there wasn’t gonna be a followup: by the time the record hit the top of the charts, Weston and Stevenson had already left Motown.  In fact, at this point Gaye had three duet partners: Weston, Mary Wells and Oma Page, and they had all left the label.

But label chief Berry Gordy wanted to repeat the duet success, so he enlisted Motortown Revue singer Tammi Terrell, who also happened to be the girlfriend of singer David Ruffin, of the Temptations.  Initially she cut her vocals separately from Gaye, and they hit with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love,” both written by Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Gaye and Terrell toured behind these singles and their first duet album, but in 1967 Terrell collapsed onstage and was later diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She had the first of six brain surgeries, and she was pretty much finished as a live performer.  When she came back in a wheelchair to cut vocals with Gaye, it was face-to-face in a studio and one of the first songs they recorded is a classic: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” by Ashford & Simpson.

“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” is perhaps the archetypical Motown duet, with instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and the “sweet” Motown strings usually present on the label’s more romantic offerings.  Gaye and Terrell hit their marks as vocalists, and this was a nearly perfect record: listeners thought so as well, as it was an R&B and pop hit in 1968.

“You’re All I Need To Get By” was even bigger: it was a Top 10 pop hit in the United States and the United Kingdom and reached No. 1 on the R&B charts, where it stayed for quite a while in ’68.  “You’re All I Need” had a sort-of gospel backing choir (which included Ashford & Simpson) but it was assembled in the studio, with Gaye and Terrell cutting their vocals separately.

In fact, due to Terrell’s condition it was impossible for her to record new vocals for a full album.  So they took some of her old solo songs and overdubbed Gaye’s vocals into them to create duets.  Some of these included “Memory Chest,” “Baby Dont’cha Worry”, “Give In, You Just Can’t Win” and “When Love Comes Knocking At Your Heart.”

The album, You’re All I Need, on the Tamla label, was a moderate success (Motown usually had more success with singles) and would be the final album the duo would really record together.  A third duet album, Easy, was assembled and released in 1969, but Valerie Simpson sang along with Gaye in the studio for “guide vocals” then Terrell came in and painstakingly cut her own vocals.  In 1969 Motown also released Terrell’s only solo LP, Irresistible, but by this time she was too ill to promote either album.

She finally died in 1970 of the brain tumor.  Marvin Gaye would later say Tammi Terrell was his best duet partner, and her death would really tear him up emotionally.  His classic album What’s Going On is reportedly partially inspired by Terrell’s death.  Marvin Gaye would himself die prematurely, shot fatally by his own father in 1984.

MP3: “You’re All I Need To Get By”

MP3: “When Love Comes Knocking At My Heart”

MP3: “Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey”

MP3: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”

MP3: “I’ll Never Stop Loving You Baby”

Motown Turns 50: The Supremes

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2009 by 30daysout

 supremes-where-did-our-love-go            the-supremes-a-go-go-1966-front

We have neglected this feature of late, but Motown is celebrating its 50th year as a record label throughout 2009.  Today we take a look at two albums from a group that wasn’t really known for its long-players:  The Supremes.

The Supremes, of course, were Motown’s most commercially successful act, charting an incredible twelve No. 1 singles in the Billboard pop charts between 1964-69.  The classic trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard hit the radio consciousness with their second album, Where Did Our Love Go (1964).  This album was the linchpin of the Supremes’ success, as it featured four songs that would storm the Top 40 (all written by Holland-Dozier-Holland) and temporarily hold back the British Invasion.

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Motown Turns 50 – “What’s Going On?” – Marvin Gaye

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2009 by 30daysout

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Motown celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and in the coming weeks we are going feature some of the labels greatest moments. Today, it’s Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?

Released in May 1971, What’s Going On?  tells the tale of a Vietnam veteran who left to fight for his country, but when he got home, all he found was the same social injustice, racism, suffering and hatred he knew before he left.  The brilliant lyrics deal with everything from God to drugs to poverty to war to taking care of Mother Earth. He was “green” long before it was a fashionable money-making venture.  Gaye’s vocals were smooth and soulful.  The music put you right on the troubled streets of Detroit with a soul that still hasn’t been matched to this day.  It was soul music’s first concept album, and one of the finest ever made.

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30 Days Out (from Christmas): Motown, Part 1

Posted in 30 Days Out (From Christmas) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2008 by 30daysout

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Day Two – Nobody in the music industry is above a little holiday exploitation, and Berry Gordy’s Motown label was certainly no exception.  Gordy often put his star roster to work in the early summer recording finger poppin’ versions of holiday classics and a few originals, in hopes that he’d find a gold record under the Christmas tree.  Some of these are classics – Stevie Wonder’s “Ave Maria” is one of the better holiday records ever made – while others have justifiably faded into the mists of time.  There are so many Motown holiday songs, we’ll visit Detroit again on our 30-day Christmas odyssey.