This Legendary Singer Was A Positive Force In The Black Community

tammie terrell on an album cover
Shonda Buchanan
March 21, 2023

All Tammi Terrell wanted to do was sing beautiful, positive music that showed the love, romance, joy, and reality of Black life. But she’d had enough of her singing group’s bickering and violent relationships with men.

She decided to step away from music and start a pre-med program, but was unaware of the silent threat that was stalking her.

Her work was a counter-narrative to the violence that white media showed in our communities. Her music promoted the beauty of Black life and love. But how could she do this without selling her soul like so many before her? She decided to take a break.

She was begged to return to the spotlight and signed with Motown Records on her 20th birthday. As she continued her popular duets with Marvin Gaye, her star continued to rise. Then tragedy struck.

In the middle of a performance, she got dizzy and collapsed in Gaye’s arms. A brain tumor had been stalking this young, beautiful star who’d sacrificed so much for her music. After eight unsuccessful surgeries, she died at 24 years old. 

But her music lives on in us.

We all have something to contribute to the enrichment of our community. Presenting a positive self-image and celebrating Black love and joy enriches and empowers all Black people.