James Brown is considered by many as a musical genius, but he was also an abusive man who reportedly found nothing wrong in dating a 17-year-old Tammi Terrell when he was 30.
Terrell was an exceptional singer who lived a short life that, unfortunately, was riddled with tragedy, including abusive relationships. Her first documented experience of domestic violence was with the man known today as the “Godfather of Soul.”
James Brown performing in England on June 27, 2004. | Photo: Getty Images
Terrell (birth name Thomasina Winifred Montgomery) is mostly remembered for her duets with the late legend Marvin Gaye, but before joining Motown Records, the Philadelphia native signed on to tour with The James Brown Revue as a backup vocalist.
According to the website Ora-Band, Terrell’s mother was concerned about her daughter’s young age and left her in the care of one of Brown’s female assistants.
Unfortunately, that did not stop the “It's A Man's Man's Man's World” crooner from wooing Terrell with money, fancy gifts, and luxury hotel rooms.
Tammi Terrell All I Do (Is Think About You). | Source: Flickr/blile59
The singer’s sister, Ludie Montgomery, would later recall a time when she and their mother went to visit Terrell in New York and found Brown in her bed.
Montgomery said she and her sister and their mom had gone on a shopping spree when they returned to meet the worrisome sight.
Per ILOSM, she said:
“We entered Tammi’s room, we saw that James Brown was sleeping in Tammi’s bed. He woke up abruptly, greeted us politely and left.”
James Brown performing in May 2004 | Photo: Getty Images
Montgomery recalled that their mother was upset but Brown’s assistant, Gertie, assured her she was keeping an eye on Terrell.
As it turned out, Gertie was either utterly ignorant or very skilled at telling lies. Not only was Brown carrying on a sexual relationship with Terrell, but he was also hitting her consistently.
The late Bobby Bennett, a former member of the “Famous Flames” where Brown began his career, confirmed Brown’s abusive behavior towards the singer in a 1989 Rolling Stone feature.
“He beat Tammi Terrell terrible. She was bleeding, shedding blood,” Bennett revealed. “Tammi left him because she didn’t want her butt whipped.”
Tammi Terrell "Come On And See Me." | Source: Flickr/blile59
In her 2005 biography, Montgomery also wrote about finding a blood-stained garment in Terrell’s luggage after the latter fled Brown’s crew.
“It was called a Kimono and James had bought it for Tammi. This dress had particular significance! There was blood all over it. We learned that Tammi’s abuse was extensive and that this tragic incident involved an umbrella with horrific results.”
Although Terrell fled Brown’s violence, the singer would get into another abusive relationship with David Ruffin of Motown’s “The Temptations.”
Besides having a wife and several mistresses while he professed love to Terrell, Ruffin also reportedly hit her at different times with a hammer, a machete and a motorcycle helmet.
It was after leaving Ruffin that her professional relationship with Gaye commenced, resulting in numerous career-defining songs that stir millions of hearts and draw positive reviews till this day.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You,” and “Your Precious Love,” are only some of the masterpieces the duo created.
Unfortunately, Terrell was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1967 when her career was inching towards its peak.
After undergoing numerous surgeries, going blind, and moving around with a wheelchair, Terrell passed away on March 16, 1970, a few weeks before her 25th birthday.
Meanwhile, throughout his lifetime, Brown was accused by several women of domestic violence and rape. He died on Christmas Day in 2006, aged 73.
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