1968 was the year that Marvin Gaye cracked the winning formula with Tammi Terrell, with the creative assistance of Ashford and Simpson, who became both their song writers and music producers for their next two number one singles on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles Chart, starting with the single released on March 28th 1968 “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, which achieved the number one position week-ending 8th June 1968 (1 week) and also peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. The next number one song followed in late summer with “You’re All I Need to Get By”, at the top week-ending 31st August 1968 (5 weeks). These two songs performed extremely well in the UK and in other European music markets, selling hundreds of thousands of copies across Europe. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell became the most successful duo in the history of the label during this period.
The performances of Gaye and Terrell were of top quality, delivered with class and sophistication. Their voices flowed smoothly like milk and honey, graced with beauty and poetic yet filled with sexual passion from start to finish, unmatched by anyone at the time. They became a trade-mark brand for Motown and were certainly perfect for each other in terms of the blend of voices and harmonisation, making the most of the beautiful melodies developed by Ashford and Simpson. The original roots and feelings of the majority of these songs written by Ashford and Simpson were developed by Valerie Simpson playing the piano, as they worked chord structures for each song. Each track was underpinned by soulful, gospel- tinged musical themes, which were strongly influenced by the composers’ experiences back in the city of New York, where they performed in the Baptist church choir. This experience impacted their musical intelligence and approach to composing and producing songs and helped them create brilliant songs, with the skilful support of The Funk Brothers under the leadership of Earl Van Dyke. Unfortunately in the early part of 1970 (on the 16th March) Tammi Terrell succumbed to a brain tumour at the age of 24. Thus ended one of Motown’s most successful duos in the history of the label up to that point.