Marvin Gaye

American Singer-Songwriter (1939, Washington – 1984, Los Angeles)

Marvin Gaye was a Motown singer and known as the Prince of Soul; he was posthumously admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

From an early age, Marvin Gaye sang gospel music in the church of his father, Marvin Gaye Senior. During his youth, avoiding racial violence was a daily struggle. He joined the Air Force in 1956 but the rampant segregation within the institution led him back to Washington just a year later. He then turned to music. He formed a Doo-wop group with two other singers called The Marquees; they recorded two singles for the Okeh label in 1957. Gaye was then spotted by Harvey Fuqua, the leader of Moonglows, and asked to perform in studio sessions with Chuck Berry and Etta James. Through Fuqua, Marvin Gaye also met Berry Gordy, the founder of the Motown label, who hired him as a drummer (in the studio and on tour) for the Miracles and the young Stevie Wonder. Marvin Gaye however harboured aspirations of becoming a singer. He recorded a debut album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, which did not sell very well but launched his career as a singer. Marvin Gaye, was born Marvin Gay, but took the decision to add an "e" to his surname, hoping to minimise any homosexual innuendo. In 1962, he released Stubborn Kinda Fellow and Pride and Joy and married Anna Gordy, Chuck Berry's sister, the following year.

Gaye then produced a number of albums, which featured duets with artists such as Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell, with whom he performed Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, which became a real international success. Despite experiencing international acclaim, Marvin Gaye attempted suicide in 1967. This depression marked a turning point in his career: his music took a new tack with titles like I Heard It Through The Grapevine. It was also during this period that he became addicted to cocaine and decided to no longer give live performances. During this period, the Motown label offices also moved to California. Marvin began to produce a new, more politically engaged album called What's Going On; several of the songs reached the top spot in the US charts. This work tackled sensitive subjects like the fight for the civil rights, Gaye’s struggle with drugs, the Vietnam War and the environment. In 1973 Gaye went on to release the best-selling album of his career, Let's Get It On.

After a period of exile and musical retirement, he left Motown for CBS and released, in 1982, Midnight Love. His song Sexual Healing brought him renewed success but he was still psychologically fragile. He moved back to his parent’s home in Los Angeles. Marvin Gaye died after being shot twice by his father in the midst of violent argument. He left behind a rich body of work, which has inspired musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Ben Harper, Kate Bush and Amy Winehouse.

Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Marvin Gaye 

1961 :  Signed with Motown
1964 :  Married Anna Gordy
1967 :  Recorded Ain’t no mountain high enough with Tammi Terrell
1971 :  Released What's Going On, which was seen as an extremely influential record
1981  : Moved to Ostende in Belgium
1983 :  Gave his last public performances at the NBA All Star Game where he sang a soul version of the National Anthem

Key Albums by Marvin Gaye

1961  : The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye  (Motown Tamla)
1965  : A Tribute to the Great Nat "King" Cole  (Motown Tamla)
1971  : What's Going On  (Motown Tamla)
1973  : Let's Get It On  (Motown Tamla)
1973 : Diana & Marvin, with Diana Ross (Motown)
1976 : I Want You  (Motown Tamla)
1978 : Here, My Dear  (Motown Tamla)
1982 : Midnight Love  (Columbia Records / Epic Records)