Monday, June 18, 2012

Music Mondays: All I Do

As salaam alaikum,

I had a lovely weekend, but God help me...I have some important decisions to make soon, and I hope I don't screw up. I'm praying God is with me all the way and helps me not make dumb decisions. Cryptic, I know. You can only imagine...

My cousin was up with her baby daughter for much of the night, and ended up watching TV One's "Unsung," a show about R&B artists who were once popular whose legacy has been since lost for one reason or another. The last episode that I was not able to watch all the way was that of the Bar-Kays, who were recent high school grads when all but two of the original band members perished in a plane crash that also took Otis Redding's life. Otis was only 26, and I still see in my mind's eye the picture of his lifeless body, still buckled in his seat, being pulled from the waters of Lake Michigan, I believe it was.

God! That was so sad...

Tammi Terrell's "Unsung" episode was no exception. The poor thing was gang raped as a child and went in and out of relationships and was sometimes abused, at the hands of such R&B greats as James Brown (yes...did not know he was a woman beater) and David Ruffin. Her albums of duets with Marvin Gaye would be the pinnacle of her career. Barely strong enough to sing through the third album, she died shortly thereafter, succumbing to a long battle with brain cancer, an aggressive glioma that did not give her respite. She was 24.

If the name does not ring a bell, perhaps her hits with Marvin, such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," will spark some recognition.

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough," though peaking at #19 and #3 on the pop and R&B charts at the time, respectively, and being eclipsed by Diana Ross's cover that hit #1 years later, would become emblematic of Motown hits for later generations. Tammi and Marvin's duets would be covered, used for sentimental commercials and period movies for some time, immortalizing the song.

And their duets are great songs, written expertly by Ashford and Simpson. Rest in peace, Mr. Ashford.

I wanted to see if she'd recorded anything else that I knew, so I searched her in youtube. The first song that showed up was entitled, "All I Do Is Think About You," and I wondered if it had anything to do with Stevie Wonder's song, and maybe if it was a cover. So I played it, and it was...eerie, to say the least.

Here's the original:

Written by a 16-year-old Stevie Wonder in 1966, this song was meant for Tammi. She sung it, recorded it, but it was not released by Motown. She was 20 years old at the time of recording this. She died four years later in 1970. Stevie would later release the song that he wrote for his own album 10 years after her death, 1980, as "All I Do." This version became a hit, and Tammi's version would not be released until over 30 years after her death.

Here's Stevie's recording:

And though I grew up on Stevie's version, and it reminds me of my mother's relationship with my brother (as she described it, after he was diagnosed, all I did was think about him), so it always has special meaning for me and my family...there's a haunting quality about Tammi's vocals and presentation of the song that make me like it.

And just to make things even more random, of the people providing background vocals for Stevie's version are Eddie Levert and...Michael Jackson.

Thank you, wikipedia, for providing me with minutes of bewildered entertainment tonight!

Tammi was a beautiful vocalist, Stevie is a wonderful lyricist and performer, and life...subhan'Allah! May He have mercy on us all...

And that is your Music Monday.

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