Tammi Terrell – I Can’t Believe You Love Me


Miss Tammi Terrell


Greetings to the second post here at the new blog. I will continue to mirror posts at the old blog for a few weeks until folks can get their links adjusted.

Anyway… Today’s selection is another one of those “hey look what I found sitting in my pile of records” revelations, which seem to be happening with increasing frequency these days. A while back, I was working on the computer and pulling LPs off the shelf and spinning them on the portable. One of the discs I grabbed was a 1967 Motown anthology – something like “16 Original Hits” – that had a bunch of painfully obvious, heavily overplayed selections, and a few interesting items that I was not familiar with. One of these, buried at the end of one of the sides was a Tammi Terrell tune, ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’. So, I’m sitting there, waiting for a page to load in the background, and playing spider solitaire and suddenly I hear a strangely familiar song. I checked the label, saw it was the aforementioned Tammi Terrell song, and started wracking my brain as to where I might have heard it before. It took a few minutes, and then I realized that I knew the song, but in a recording by someone else, in this case the mighty Ambassadors of Philadelphia, PA. The Ambassadors were one of the finest harmony soul groups to come out of Philly in the late 60’s, having recorded a series of 45s for Atlantic, and then a second run of 45s and an LP for the Philly label Arctic (also home to the Volcanos and Barbara Mason). ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’ was the b-side of the group’s first Arctic 45, the a-side of which ‘I Really Love You’ was their only chart hit. Tammi Terrell – who also hailed from Philadelphia – is best known to most listeners as one of the more prominent duet partners of Marvin Gaye (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ among others) , and for her short, tragic life. She began performing in her early teens, and recorded a few 45s (for Scepter, and James Brown’s Try Me label) before being signed to Motown in 1965. ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’ was the a-side of her very first 45 for the label, and it hit the Top 40 of both the Pop and R&B charts. Written by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, ‘I Can’t Believe You Love Me’, as recorded by Terrell is a lush, sexy mid-tempo number with a fantastic arrangement. Opening with what sounds like doubled electric guitars, and then strings, Terrell comes in with her sweet voice, running through the chorus once before dropping back into the verse. Her voice is accompanied only by the guitars and percussion, before the backing singers and strings come back in for the chorus, which builds ever so subtly into a crescendo. It has quickly become one of my favorite Motown sides. Terrell also recorded the tune as a duet with Gaye in 1969. In 1967, she collapsed on stage and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though she continued to record for a few more years, her condition got worse and she finally died in 1970, only 24 years old. Fortunately, all of Tammi Terrell’s best work – solo and with Marvin Gaye – is available in reissue, as are the recordings of the Ambassadors (which I recommend highly, even though their CD omits their version of this great song).





5 Responses to “Tammi Terrell – I Can’t Believe You Love Me”

  1. Buzz Says:

    What a beautiful voice! What a pity her career was cut short. This is a very modern sounding production, particularly since they use “Swan Lake” as the main melody line (would we say this is one of the earliest examples of sampling?).

  2. MackMcCoy Says:

    Tammi’s story is so sad. In reading up on it recently, I was pretty
    floored to learn that on some of the later tracks credited to her &
    Marvin, it wasn’t even her singing, but Valerie Simpson – even on big hits
    like “The Onion Song!” The source I read it in took the view that
    it was an admirable thing to do as far as keeping Tammi paid &
    in the spotlight even while she was very sick, but a part of me
    remembers everything I’ve also read about Berry Gordy’s business
    practices, and it gives me a chill. Still, I can’t imagine Marvin Gaye
    being party to anything he felt was exploiting Terri’s name, as they
    were so close.

  3. Chap Says:

    The new WordPress is great!

    Thanks again for keeping us hep to the new sounds…

  4. Rob Whatman Says:

    A beautiful song from a beautiful human being.

  5. Henry Says:

    wow!!! just found your a-maz-ing site. haven’t heard that grazing in the grass instrumental or vocal since college (20 + years, yikes). Found you looking for the Funky16 corners original album. Immediately gave my father-in-law the URL. We are both crazy for funky soul beats. what an astounding knowledge bank you’ve created. I’m truly in awe! Thank you.

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