Over a span of just 12 months beginning in April 1967, the duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell enjoyed a string of four straight hits with some of the greatest love songs ever recorded at Motown Records. Sadly, only the first two of those four hits were released while Tammi Terrell was still well enough to perform them. In October 1967, just six months after the release of the now-classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Terrell collapsed onstage during a live performance at Virginia’s Hampden-Sydney College. Two-and-a-half years later, on March 16, 1970, Tammi Terrell died of complications from the malignant brain tumor that caused her 1967 collapse.
Terrell’s illness was at first downplayed by the Motown Records publicity machine while new material by the duo of Gaye and Terrell was still being released. Many of the singles released under their names were created by laying Marvin Gaye’s vocals over existing recordings of Terrell made prior to her illness. Gaye scored one of his biggest solo hits ever during this period with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” but following Terrell’s death in 1970, he stopped performing live for the next three years.