Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing

Composed by Nickolas Ashford / Valerie Simpson

Song Review by

There's no doubt about it -- Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell had something really special. Though Gaye had recorded duets with Kim Weston and Mary Wells, it was his vocal pairings with Terrell that were the biggest hits. The New York-based songwriting team of Ashford and Simpson began writing for Motown after writing "Let's Get Stoned," a number one R&B/Top 40 pop hit for Ray Charles. Their first hit with Gaye and Terrell was the 1967 Top Five R&B/Top 20 pop smash "Ain't No Mountain High Enough,"produced by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol. When the songwriters expressed an interest in producing the singers, the Detroit-based label flew them in for a week to work in their music room where Nick Ashford would come up with lyric ideas while Valerie Simpson sat at the piano. One resulting song from the sessions was "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." The track has a gentle, breezy quality with a tender, subdued musical motif that has flutes that bring to mind the happy chirping of birds. It's also notable for its semi lack of a musical introduction -- the record just seems to glide in. Terrell's vocals sweetly dominate while Gaye relishes her direct affections. "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" went to number one R&B and number eight pop in the summer of 1968.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
You're All I Need 1968 Island / Motown
No Image 1970
Various Artists
2:13
No Image 1974 Motown
The Big Chill [Original Soundtrack] 1983
Original Soundtrack
Hip-O 2:16
Marvin Gaye & His Women 1985 Motown / Universal 2:14
Classic Rock: 1968 - The Beat Goes On 1989
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:16
The Marvin Gaye Collection 1990 Motown
AM Gold: 1968 1990
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:16
Hitsville USA - The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 1992
Various Artists
Motown 2:17
Motown Legends: Duets 1995
Various Artists
PSM 2:15
The Master 1961-1984 1995 Island / Island/Def Jam / Motown / Universal 2:17
Anthology: The Best of Marvin Gaye 1995 Motown 2:17
The Very Best of Marvin Gaye 1997 Motown / Def Jam / Island / Island/Def Jam / PolyGram / Universal / Universal Music 2:13
Forever Yours 1997 DTS Entertainment / Digital Sound 2:16
Motown Chartbusters, Vol. 2 1997
Various Artists
Motown 2:16
Motown 40 Forever 1998
Various Artists
Motown 2:15
Whole Lotta Soul 1968-1969 1999
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 2:15
Motown Chartbusters, Vol. 1 - 6 1999
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / Motown 2:16
Motown Legends [Transworld Box] 1999
Various Artists
Transworld 2:19
Universal Masters Collection 2000 Motown
United/You're All I Need 2001 Universal International 2:18
The Classic Rhythm & Blues Collection, Vol. 3: 1966-1969 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:15
The Very Best of Marvin Gaye [Motown 2001] 2001 Hip-O 2:13
Motown Chartbusters, Vols. 1-3 2001
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 2:16
Motown Gold 2001
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:17
All Music Guide: Motown Memories 2001
Various Artists
Medalist Entertainment 2:18
Love Songs: Greatest Duets 2003 Motown 2:15
The Marvin Gaye Collection [2003] 2003 Motown 3:05
No Image 2003
Various Artists
Universal Music TV
Body + Soul: Duets 2004
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:16
Motown Number 1's 2004
Various Artists
Motown / UTV 2:15
Gold: Greatest Hits [Universal Canada] 2004 Universal Distribution / Universal International 2:15
Icons 2004 Motown 2:13
Gold 2005 Motown / Universal 2:13
Soul Legends: Motown Legends, Vol. 1-3 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:19
Ultimate 16: Lite FM: Classic Love Duets 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:15
Beautiful Duets [Universal Netherlands] 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Love Songs: Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:13
Love Collection 2006 Universal International 2:13
To Mum Love Motown 2006
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:19
Colour Collection 2007 Universal Distribution 2:14
Number 1's 2007 Motown 2:14
More Motown Classics Gold 2007
Various Artists
Universal / Universal Music 2:14
Prime 17: Ultimate Soul #1 Hits 2007
Various Artists
Direct Source 2:14
True '60s 2007
Various Artists
Universal Music 2:14
Valentine's #1s & Other Favorite Love Songs 2008
Various Artists
Chron Reissues 2:14
Playlist Plus: Motown 50th Anniversary 2008
Various Artists
Motown / Universal Music 2:17
Favorites 2008 Motown / UMG 2:14
Playlist Your Way 2008 Motown 2:18
Motown 50 Fanthology 2008
Various Artists
Motown / Strategic Marketing 2:14
Motown: The Complete No. 1's 2008
Various Artists
Motown / Island/Def Jam / Universal Music 2:14
The Complete Collection 2008 Motown 2:14
Now That's What I Call Motown! 2009
Various Artists
Motown 2:14
Motown 50 Essentials Box 2009
Various Artists
Motown / Universal
Motown 50 Fanthology 2009
Various Artists
Motown 2:13
Motortown Review 2009
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:18
Sweet Soul Music: 1968 2009
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:14
Total Motown 2010
Various Artists
Spectrum Music 2:16
Love Songs 2011 Motown / Uni / Universal 2:14
Smooth Soul [Time Life] 2012
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:16
Motown the Musical: 100 Originals 2013
Various Artists
Cobalt Helladisc / Universal Music 2:16
From Motown With Love 2015
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:18
Volume Two: 1966-1970 2015 Motown
100 Essential 60's
Various Artists
Universal 2:15
202 Motown Songs: The Complete #1's
Various Artists
Island/Def Jam / Universal Music 2:14
No Image
Various Artists
Motown 2:12
No Image
Various Artists
Motown 2:12
High Society: We Got the Soul
Various Artists
Universal
Icon: Motown Classics, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Motown 2:15
Motown Chartbusters: Five Classic Albums
Various Artists
Spectrum Music
Motown Collection, Vol. 3
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:18
No Image
Various Artists
Motown
The Best of Marvin Gaye: Green Series Strategic Marketing 2:16
Total 60s
Various Artists
Universal 2:12
blue highlight denotes editor's pick