#1: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

City: Grande Prairie, AB
Radio Station: CFGP
Peak Month: July 1967
Peak Position in Grande Prairie #2
Peak position in Vancouver ~ #14
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #19
YouTube: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Lyrics: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. was born in 1939 in Washington D.C. His father was a Pentecostal church minister who never held down a job for more than three years in a row. Marvin’s childhood consisted of “brutal whippings”, since Gay Sr. would strike him for any shortcoming, including putting his hairbrush in the wrong place or coming home from school a minute late. Marvin later stated, “It wasn’t simply that my father beat me, though that was bad enough. By the time I was twelve, there wasn’t an inch on my body that hadn’t been bruised and beaten by him.” He also said that “living with Father was like living with a king, an all-cruel, changeable, cruel and all-powerful king”. He later recalled, “if it wasn’t for Mother, who was always there to console me and praise me for my singing, I think I would have been one of those child suicides you read about in the papers.”

Gay Sr. was an alcoholic, and a cross-dresser. Marvin Gay started singing in church when he was four years old. His father often accompanied him on piano. From the age of 11, Marvin was encouraged to pursue a professional career as a singer. In the mid-50s, Marvin was part of the Dippers and the D.C. Tones, both doo-wop groups. In 1956, after being kicked out of the house yet again by his father, Marvin enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. In 1957, Marvin was discharged and formed a doo-wop group called The Marquees, who backed Bo Diddley. The group backed Chuck Berry in the studio on “Almost Grown” and “Back in the U.S.A.”.

Marvin Gay added a silent “e” to his surname to distance himself from his father. In 1961 he released his first single, “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”. Several more non-charting releases came and went. But with his fourth single release, “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow”, Marvin Gaye peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. His followup, “Hitch Hike”, made the Top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. While a further release, “Pride And Joy”, shot to #10 on the Hot 100 and, #15 in Winnipeg (MB), and #2 on the Hot R&B Singles chart in the summer of 1963. Another release, “Can I Get A Witness”, was a Top 15 hit in Winnipeg (MB) and #3 on the Hot R&B Singles chart.

Gaye racked up more Top Ten R&B hits in 1963-64. These include “You’re a Wonderful One” (#6 in Hamilton and #8 in Windsor), “Once Upon a Time” (with Mary Wells) which climbed to #3 in Windsor, Ontario, “What’s the Matter with You Baby” (with Mary Wells),  and “Try It Baby”. On May 23, 1964, Marvin Gaye appeared in concert at the Hollywood Bowl in New Westminster (BC).

Marvin Gaye returned to the Top Ten on the Hot 100 in the winter of 1964-65 with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and #8 in Vancouver. While in 1965, Gaye topped the R&B charts with both “Ain’t That Peculiar” (#5 in Vancouver) and “I’ll Be Doggone” (#4 in Vancouver). Both singles peaked at #8 on the Hot 100.

In 1966, Gaye had a #4 hit on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart with “One More Heartache”. Later that year “Little Darlin (I Need You)” reached #7 in Saint John, New Brunswick, and #10 on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart in the USA. Late in 1966, Marvin Gaye teamed up with Kim Weston to record “It Takes Two”. The single shot to #4 on the Hot R&B Singles chart and #5 in Windsor (ON). And from April 20th to 30th, 1966, – for eleven consecutive nights – Marvin Gaye was a headliner at The Cave supper club in Vancouver (BC).

In 1967, Marvin Gaye teamed up with Tammi Terrell and began recording a series of hit-making duets. Thomasina Winifred Montgomery was born in Philadelphia in 1945. Her parents nicknamed her “Tommie.” When she was eleven years old, Terrell was raped by three boys. She changed her name to “Tammy” in 1957 after seeing the movie of the same name featuring the theme song “Tammy” by Debbie Reynolds.

In 1960, at the age of 15, Terrell signed under the Wand subsidiary of Scepter Records after being discovered by Luther Dixon. She recorded “If You See Bill” credited to Tammy Montgomery. She also began doing demos for The Shirelles. Terrell left the label after she was introduced to James Brown. She signed a contract with him and began singing backup for his Revue concert tours. In 1961, Terrell created the group The Sherrys. However, in late 1962, she was kicked out of the group, due to multiple disputes.

In 1962, 17-year-old Terrell became involved in an abusive relationship with James Brown, who was 12 years her senior. One night on the road in 1963, Terrell left Brown after he assaulted her for not watching his entire performance. Bobby Bennett, former member of the Famous Flames, witnessed the incident. “He beat Tammi Terrell terrible. She was bleeding, shedding blood. Tammi left him because she didn’t want her butt whipped,” said Bennett.

In 1963, Terrell recorded the song “I Cried” which cracked the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at #99. The single made the Top 15 in Los Angeles on KRLA in June 1963.

In 1965, her recording of “I Can’t Believe You Love Me” became a Top 30 hit on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles chart, and peaked in the Top 5 in Los Angeles and Cleveland. While in 1966, “Come On And See Me” was a Top 5 pop hit for Tammi Terrell in Honolulu and Winston-Salem. On the R&B stations the single was a Top 5 hit in Chicago and Detroit.

During the Motortown Revue in 1966, Tammi Terrell embarked on a torrid romance with The Temptations lead singer David Ruffin. That year, Terrell accepted Ruffin’s surprise marriage proposal. After Terrell announced their engagement onstage during an appearance together, she discovered that he was already married. Ruffin had a wife, three children, and another girlfriend in Detroit. This revelation and Ruffin’s drug addiction led to violent arguments. Terrell told Ebony magazine in 1969 that she believed her emotional state during this relationship was a contributing factor to her headaches, which would come after quarrels. In 1967, Terrell ended their relationship after Ruffin hit her in the head with his motorcycle helmet.

In 1967, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.

Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Ashford was born in 1941 in Fairfield, South Carolina. Simpson was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1946. Ashford was part of a gospel group in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in his late teens. It was in Harlem in 1964 that Ashford and Simpson first met at a Baptist church. In 1965, their song “Let’s Go Get Stoned” became a number-one R&B hit for Ray Charles in 1966. That year the Guess Who? recorded “Hey Ho, What You Do to Me”, which became a Top Ten hit in a number of record markets in Canada. Ashford and Simpson wrote several hits for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell including “Your Precious Love”, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need To Get By”.

Ashford and Simpson wrote “Reach Out And Touch” and “Remember Me” for Diana Ross, a number-one hits in 1978 for Quincy Jones (“Stuff Like That”) and Chaka Khan (“I’m Every Woman”).

As a recording act, Ashford And Simpson had Top Ten R&B hits with “It Seems to Hang On”, “Found a Cure”, “Love Don’t Make It Right”, “Street Corner”, and “Solid”. The latter was a #12 pop hit and a number-one R&B hit in 1984. At President Barak Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Ashford and Simpson rewrote their song, “Solid”, as “Solid as Barack”. They dedicated it to him at his inaugural festivities.

Between 1972 and 1989 Ashford & Simpson charted nine singles into the Top Ten of the Billboard R&B chart. Recording artists who took their songs to the studio include Aretha Franklin, the Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Martha & the Vandellas. In 2011, Nick Ashford died at the age of 70 of throat cancer. in 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Ashford & Simpson among the 20 top duos in the rock ‘n roll era.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a song about a romantic partner being their goal. Consequently, all obstacles that get in their path are removed: “No wind, no rain, no winter’s cold can stop me baby, ‘Cause you are my goal: If you’re ever in trouble, I’ll be there on the double, just send for me…”

Billboards review of the single stated: “Chalk up another pulsating fast smash for Gaye with his new partner Tammi Terrell. The electricity of the duo combined with the blockbuster rhythm material grooves all the way.”

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” climbed to #1 in Ann Arbor (MI), and Philadelphia, #2 in Grande Prairie (AB), Stockton (CA), and Quincy (IL), #3 in Battle Creek (MI), Boston, Birmingham (AL), and New York City, #4 in Cleveland, #5 in San Francisco, #6 in Detroit, Flint (MI), Lansing (MI), San Jose (CA), Albuquerque (NM), and York (PA), #7 in Fort Worth (TX), #8 in Windsor (ON), #9 in Pittsburgh, Lancaster (PA), Des Moines (IA), Fresno (CA), Lowell (MA), Sacramento (CA), and New Haven (CT), and #10 in Reading (PA). On the Billboard Hot 100, the single peaked at #19, and #3 on the R&B chart.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” became a number-one hit for Diana Ross in 1970.

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. In February 1968 she had her first of eight surgeries over the next few years for brain cancer.

In 1968, Gaye and Terrell received a Grammy Award nomination for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in the Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental category. They lost to Sam & Dave for their recording of “Soul Man”. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 1998, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell appeared in the film Stepmom. the 2000 film Remember the Titans, and the 2104 film Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell had a followup hit in 1967 titled “Your Precious Love”. It peaked at #2 on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart, #5 on the Hot 100, #3 in Windsor (ON), #5 in Sudbury (ON), and Vernon (BC), and #6 in Toronto. Gaye and Terrell had more hits with “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” – both number-one hit on the R&B charts in 1968, and “What You Gave Me” in late 1969.

In 1969 and into January 1970, Tammi Terrell had eight operations to address her advancing brain cancer. She went into a coma around January 21, 1970. Tammi Terrell died of cancer at the age of brain cancer at the age of 24 on March 16, 1970. Marvin Gaye gave a eulogy.

In 1968, Marvin Gaye released his biggest hit single “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. The single was a cover of a Gladys Knight & the Pips song from the previous year. Gaye’s version topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles charts for seven consecutive weeks. It stayed at #1 for five weeks in Windsor (ON) and Toronto for one week.

Through the 1970s, Marvin Gaye kept releasing hit records: “What’s Going On” (about police brutality and war) and “Mercy, Mercy Me (the Ecology)” about the environment, “Trouble Man” and “Inner City Blues” about the challenges and adversity of the black experience America in the early 70s. His album which featured all but “Trouble Man”, What’s Going On, was spurred by Gaye’s effort to come to terms with the death of Tammi Terrell. “Trouble Man” was the theme-title of a blacksploitation film released in 1972.

Into the mid-70s, he turned his attention to sexuality with “Let’s Get It On” (1973) and later “Sexual Healing” (1983), and disco with “Got To Give It Up”. Other notable hits included “I Want You” and “My Mistake (Was To Love You)” – a duet with Diana Ross. On February 6, 1975, Marvin Gaye performed in concert at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

Over his career, Marvin Gaye had 14 number-one hits on the R&B charts and three number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100. On July 11, 1983, Marvin Gaye appeared in what would be his last concert in Canada at the Massey Hall in Toronto.

On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father, Marvin Gay Sr. the day before Gaye’s 45th birthday. The scene was his parents home in Los Angeles. Gay Sr. was charged with first-degree murder, but following diagnosis of a brain tumor, the charge was reduced to voluntary manslaughter. Immediately after his death, numerous fans of Gaye stood outside the house at Gramercy Place, placed memorabilia and other items on the lawn, and held vigils there, until the next day, Gaye’s birthday. At the time of his death, Gaye was said to be working on a new album.

On May 10, 1984, Marvin Gaye appeared posthumously on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Starting in 1986, Washington D.C. began celebrating Marvin Gaye Day in the city. In November 2018, Marvin Gaye appeared on a United States postage stamp. A biopic was mounted in 2006 titled Sexual Healing, detailing the story of Marvin Gaye. In the mid-2010s it ran into steep resistance by Gaye’s family. In 2021 it was announced that a biopic about Marvin Gaye titled What’s Going On was in production.

February 14, 2024
Ray McGinnis

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Nick Ashford of Ashford & Simpson songwriting team dies at 70,” Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2011.
20 Greatest Duos of All Time,” Rolling Stone, December 17, 2015.
Christian John Wikane, “Making a Masterpiece: An Interview with Legendary Composer Valerie Simpson,” Popmatters.com, November 13, 2020.
Kevin Jagernauth, “Watch: 4-Minutes Of Footage From Stalled Marvin Gaye Biopic ‘Sexual Healing’ Starring Jesse L. Martin,” Indiewire.com, September 18, 2013.
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Marvin Gaye’s Father and Killer Dies,” BBC, October 25, 1998.
Marvin Gaye is Shot and Killed,: Pop Singer’s Father Faces Charge,” New York Times, April 2, 1984.
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Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

CFGP 1050-AM, Grande Prairie (AB) Top Ten | July 22, 1967

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