Black History Through Music

Music has a very symbolic place in my family, so I grew up listening to both of these artists, and will continue to do so. Music has helped us overcome so much as a race and has always been a place where African Americans can freely express themselves while influencing others. Today, I highlight Nat King Cole and Tammi Terrell, and their contributions to the music industry.

Nat King Cole

Cole was a native of Montgomery, Alabama who rose to stardom due to his smooth baritone voice.  Cole began playing the piano when he was four years old being taught by his mother who a choir director at church. He was married for the second time to  Maria Hawkins Ellington and they had 5 children. He was the first African-American performer to host a variety television series. Cole toured with the musical Shuffle Along then put together the Nat King Cole trio. He appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Gary Moore show and landed some big screen role. After facing backlash for continuing to play for “Jim Crow” audiences many blacks boycotted his music. He soon paid $500 to become a lifelong member of the NAACP. Unfortunately, Cole was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a few months later at the age of 45.  

Tammi Terrell

Terrell was born Thomasina Winifred Montgomery and is greatly known for her works with Marvin Gaye. Some of their songs include "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing Baby". Tammi Terrell sung backup for James Brown and became involved in a abusive relationship with the singer. On April 29th, 1965 Terrell signed with Motown Records where she released I Can’t Believe You Love Me and Come On and See Me. She also recorded “Classics” with Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers. Her biggest success coming with Marvin Gaye and their duets. Terrell and Gaye became very close friends so close that he gave the eulogy at her funeral. On October 14, 1967 Terrell was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on the right side of her brain. She underwent surgery on went on to record two chart topping hits “You’re All I Need To Get By" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing". By 1970 Terrell was confined to a wheelchair, losing her hair and suffering from blindness. She died on March 16, 1970 at the age of 24.