Song of the Week – California Soul, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

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One of the greatest and most tragic musical collaborations was the series of duets recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Their glorious list of hits include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Your Precious Love” (my favorite), “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.”

But as you well know by now, the SotW is all about providing exposure to the overlooked gems, so today’s feature is “California Soul.”

“California Soul” was written by Ashford & Simpson and recorded by numerous (mostly Motown) acts before Gaye and Terrell took a crack at it. They managed to take it to #56 as the B-side to “The Onion Song.” It was the last single released by the duo (March 1970) and was included on the album Easy.

On October 14, 1967, Terrell collapsed into Gaye’s arms onstage at a concert in Virginia. She was soon diagnosed with brain cancer and was unable to fully continue her career. She received treatments and operations through early 1970 when she finally succumbed to her disease and died about 6 weeks before her 25th birthday.

Controversy has surrounded whether Terrell truly sang on Easy or if her parts were actually sung by Simpson. But I choose to believe Terrell sang, especially since Simpson has continually denied that it was her. (She claims to have provided guide vocals for the weakened Terrell who had to sing while seated in a wheelchair.)

We can only imagine what more great music Gaye and Terrell were destined to make together.

Enjoy… until next week.

3 thoughts on “Song of the Week – California Soul, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

  1. Sounds like Tammi to me. I never heard this before and I like it in that slow-grooving summer way. “Your Precious Love” is our wedding song. Actually we had two, “Higher & Higher” (the Jackie Wilson version) was the other. One for fast dancing and one for slow dancing.

    Duets are tough to pull off. They are of course contrived, with the trick being to sound natural. The list of all-time great duets is short, indeed the songs named above are almost all of them. Also from Motown, maybe this qualifies, although it is a duet between groups. From their summer TV special in 1969 (might have been 1968), The Supremes meet The Temptations:

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