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Gaye, Marvin

Marvin Gaye

American singer Marvin Gaye (1939–1984) was one of popular music's most successful and innovative recording artists. He expanded the boundaries of the rhythm and blues and soul genres as he explored social and sexual themes in his music. Gaye began his career with Motown records, where he recorded a long list of records that rose to the top of the charts. Later, he blazed new trails with albums such as What's Going On and Let's Get it On. His life and career were cut short in tragic fashion when he was shot by his own father.

Gaye was born as Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., on April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C. Named after his father, he would later add the "e" on the end of his last name when he became a professional entertainer. Gaye was the second of four children of Alberta and Marvin Gay, Sr., who were devout Seventh-Day Adventists. Gaye's father was a minister.

With brother Frankie and sisters Jeanne and Zeola, Gaye grew up in a poor and segregated section of Washington. Their physically abusive father who, according to accounts, drank heavily and enforced strict religious discipline further oppressed their lives. All throughout his life, Gaye had a very troubled relationship with his father, a circumstance that would later have tragic repercussions. Gaye's mother was a contrast to her husband: a responsible woman who was regularly employed as a maid.

Gaye exhibited a talent for music very early in his life. When he was only three years old, he began singing gospel hymns in his father's church choir. At the time, Marvin Gay Sr. was a preacher in a church called the House of God.

Gaye's musical interests continued into his teenage years. At Cardozo High School he studied drums, piano, and guitar. Further displaying his versatility, he also played the organ. As a teenager, Gaye was handsome but shy, and he immersed himself in his music. He showed little interest in other studies and, in 1957, he dropped out of school to join the Air Force, hoping to learn how to fly. He soon realized, though, that he wasn't military material. The U.S. government agreed and gave him an early and honorable discharge.

Early Career

Marvin Gay Sr. wanted his son to apply his musical talents toward a religious vocation, but Gaye had other ambitions. Once back in Washington, D.C., Gaye had no interest in returning to choir music. Rather, he started singing with a rhythm and blues vocal group called the Rainbows. Other members included future recording stars Don Covay and Billy Stewart. Later, he formed his own group, the Marquees, with friends Reese Palmer, James Nolan, and Chester Simmons.

In public appearances, the Marquees mostly performed for high school audiences. However, the group attracted the attention of famed guitarist Bo Diddley, and he helped the Marquees produce a single on the Okeh label, a subsidiary of Columbia Records. Despite the commingling of talent, the 45-rpm record—"Hey Little Schoolgirl" backed with "Wyatt Earp"—, which Diddley produced, did not sell very well.

To help make ends meet, Gaye worked as a dishwasher, a humiliating position that he resented. Then he met Harvey Fuqua, a music promoter who recognized Gaye's potential. At the time, Fuqua was reforming his old group, called the Moonglows, and he wanted the Marquees to be his back-up singers. In 1959, the group became known as Harvey and the Moonglows, with Fuqua singing lead vocals. They had a hit single with "Ten Commandments of Love."

As the group achieved modest success, Gaye got his first taste of life on the road as a touring performer. It proved an unpleasant, eye-opening experience, as he experienced first-hand the blatant racism prevalent in different parts of the country.

Became a Star at Motown

Fuqua soon disbanded the group and moved to Detroit, where he intended to form his own record company with the help of his girlfriend, Gwen Gordy. Gaye accompanied the pair and, in 1960, Gwen Gordy introduced him to her brother, Berry, an entrepreneur who was starting his own label, Motown-Tamla Records.

Gaye signed on with Berry Gordy and worked as a session drummer and vocalist for various Motown acts. Most significantly, he worked on the early records of a group called the Miracles (which would later become Smokey Robinson and the Miracles). Gaye worked in that capacity for about a year before he signed a contract with the company as a solo vocal artist. At this time, he added the "e" to his last name and professionally became Marvin Gaye. Later, this was seen a defiant gesture designed to get back at his father.

Also around this time, Gaye married Berry Gordy's sister, Anna. As she was thirty-seven years old, and Gaye was in his early twenties, observers felt Gaye only married her to further his developing career. Whatever Gaye's motives, the union did help launch an enduring solo vocal career. In 1961, Gaye recorded his first album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, which, as the title implied, was a collection of low-key, smooth ballads with a jazz feel. Gaye recorded other albums in this vein, but they weren't successful, so he was encouraged to change his style to target the younger audiences who favored the more upbeat and popular rhythm and blues genre. Though he embarked in this direction with reluctance, his next single, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," released in 1962, became a top-ten hit. This was followed by a string of hits that made him a star. These included "Hitch Hike," "Can I Get a Witness," and "Pride and Joy," all released in 1963. In 1964, he again made the record charts with "Try it Baby," with background vocals supplied by the Temptations, another popular Motown act; "You're a Wonderful One," with background vocals by the Supremes, who would later become Motown's top act; and "Baby Don't You Do It."

During this period, Gaye continued doing session work for Motown. A talented songwriter as well as singer, Gaye co-wrote "Dancing in the Street," which became a huge hit for Martha and the Vandellas, one of the top early Motown female groups. He also played drums on several early recordings by Stevie Wonder (who was then known as "Little" Stevie Wonder).

In late 1964, Gaye, who would prove an ever-evolving performer throughout his entire career, modified his style somewhat with "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)", which was a bit more sophisticated than typical Motown offerings. He continued in this direction with two more hit singles, "I'll Be Doggone" and "Ain't That Peculiar," both released in 1965.

Because of his shifting styles, Gaye became a somewhat enigmatic public personality, a characteristic that defied the developing Motown approach, which was heavily based on formula and carefully cultivated personas. The singles released by other major label performers, especially the Four Tops and the Supremes, exhibited a calculated and commercial same-ness of sound. Gaye, on the other hand, wasn't so easily pigeon-holed.

Teamed with Female Performers

Still, Motown tried to narrowly define Gaye's role, even though he was given latitude to experiment, an indulgence that resulted from his success. In 1965, he was allowed to record an album of Broadway show tunes. However, the company took note that the public liked him best as a rhythm and blues singer. Even more, Motown realized that Gaye was beginning to be perceived as a sex symbol. One of the few solo performers in the label's group-oriented stable of stars, Gaye developed a reputation as an attractive "ladies' man." To capitalize on this perception, the heads of Motown came up with the idea of teaming him up with its female solo artists to record romantic duets.

Gaye's first partner was Mary Wells, who became famous in 1964 with the smash hit single "My Guy." Their better-known duets included "Once Upon a Time" and "What's the Matter With You," both released in 1964. Gaye also recorded with Kim Weston, whose biggest Motown hit was a solo recording, "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While), released in late 1965. But Gaye's most successful teaming came when he was paired with Tammi Terrell, a young singer who showed a great deal of promise. With Gaye, she blossomed.

The duo worked with the talented songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Their first effort, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," was a big hit in the spring of 1967 and the first of nine successful singles. The best-known Gaye-Terrell duets included "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "Your Precious Love," and "You're All I Need To Get By," all released in 1968.

But tragedy befell the partnership. In 1968, Terrell developed a brain tumor and collapsed on stage in Gaye's arms. Three years later, she died. She was only twenty-four years old. Gaye had become very close to Terrell and took her death extremely hard. It was later said that he never really got over it.

By this time, his marriage to Anna Gordy was falling apart. Also, without Terrell, Gaye no longer wanted to perform in public. Further, he began suffering depression, started using cocaine, and often seriously contemplated suicide.

Career Rejuvenated Through the "Grapevine"

Gaye experienced personal and professional revitalization in late 1968, with the release of the single "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." It became Motown's biggest selling record of all time.

Another version of the song, performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips, was released earlier in the year and achieved substantial chart success. However, the two versions were different as night and day. Knight's version was an up-tempo, very danceable recording, despite the song's bitter message. Gaye's version, with its ominous instrumental arrangement, was slower-paced, much darker and very brooding. Compared to the typical fare that came out of Motown, Gaye's "Grapevine" was startling.

Renowned rock critic Dave Marsh, in his book The Heart of Rock & Roll: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, deemed it the best single ever recorded. Describing the record's—and Gaye's—strengths, he wrote, "Gaye plays out the singing with his characteristic amalgam of power and elegance, sophistication and instinct: now hoarse, now soaring, sometimes spitting out imprecations with frightening clarity, sometimes almost chanting in pure street slang, sometimes pleading at the edge of incoherence, twisting, shortening, and elongating syllables to capture emotions words can't define. And Gaye does this not just in a line or two or three but continuously. As a result, a record that's of absolutely stereotypical length creates a world that seems to last forever."

Gaye followed that triumph with an album called M.P.G., a deeply personal 1969 release that focused on his crumbling marriage and his increasing depression. In the summer of that year, he scored a number-one hit with "Too Busy Thinking 'Bout My Baby." However, still grieving over Terrell's untimely death, Gaye spent most of the following year in seclusion.

Came Back with "What's Going On"

Gaye wasn't idle in seclusion, however. He was working on a collection of personal songs that would comprise an album that amounted to another career triumph. The 1971 release of that album, entitled What's Going On, not only demonstrated Gaye's resilience; it was further evidence of his ongoing development as an artist.

Gaye wrote all of the songs in what was essentially a cohesive "concept" album that addressed contemporary problems such as war (the seemingly interminable Vietnam war, now carried out by the Nixon administration, had entered its ugliest phase), racism, poverty, pollution and political corruption. The work arose from Gaye's disillusionment with what was happening in the world and, especially, in the United States. In particular, Gaye had been greatly upset by the killing of four students at Kent State University in 1970 (who were protesting America's invasion of Cambodia) and he was troubled about the horrific details about the Vietnam war after his brother, Frankie, returned from a tour of duty.

The album contained three hit singles, all released in 1971 and all with socially relevant themes: "What's Going On," "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," and "Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)." Ironically, Motown did not even want to release the album. The company did not appreciate its topical content. Berry Gordy called the single, "What's Going On," the worst song he ever heard. However, after the album's enormous success, Motown—ever opportunistic and focused on what would sell in the marketplace—suddenly became "relevant," and much of the music subsequently emanating from the company contained a socially conscious "message," albeit superficial and trendy.

The album was as personal as its scope was broad. Underscoring the complexity and sophistication of Gaye's songwriting skills, the lyrics were multi-leveled, at once addressing relationships within his family and the world at large. In lyrics he wrote for the title song, Gaye directly referred to his brother ("Brother/brother/brother/There's far too many of you dying") and his father ("Father/father/father/We don't need to escalate/You see, war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate"). In retrospect, the message to the "father" was as pointed and private as it was poignant.

Moreover, the album was not one of Motown's typical assembly line productions. Gaye's fingerprints were all over every element of the recording. He oversaw the musical arrangements, providing the work with a sound that went far beyond anything that ever came out of the Motown recording studios.

The album was not only a resounding critical success; it scored big with the record-buying public and fellow musicians. Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson both later commented that it was their favorite album of all time. In a special issue devoted to the five-hundred greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone magazine placed it at number-six (exceeded by only the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, and Rubber Soul, and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.)

The success of What's Goin' On resulted in accolades. In 1971, Gaye received Billboard's Trendsetter of the Year award and Cashbox's Male Vocalist of the Year award, as well as an NAACP Image Award.

Despite his ongoing success and this sudden career peak, Gaye's personal life was spinning out of control. His drug use increased and, in 1971, he began an affair with a sixteen-year-old girl, Janis Hunter.

Nevertheless, work continued. The following year, Gaye composed the soundtrack for Trouble Man, a film that came out of the "blaxploitation" movie genre that was popular in the early to mid-1970s. Then Gaye shifted gears yet again for his next album, Let's Get it On, released in 1973. Whereas, What's Goin' On expressed his social consciousness, Gaye's new release was an expression of sexual politics. The title song was a number-one hit single.

In 1974, it was back to the romantic duets, as Motown teamed Gaye with Diana Ross, who had emerged as a major solo performer after she left the Supremes. Together, Gaye and Ross offered an album of sensuous songs, and their collaboration produced a hit single, "My Mistake (Was to Love You)."

Marriage Fell Apart

By 1975, Janis Hunter had one child with Gaye and was pregnant with another. Anna Gordy filed for divorce. Gaye was hit hard in the settlement and he had to file for bankruptcy. Gaye and Hunter eventually married in 1977. Their two children included a daughter, Nona, and a son, Frankie.

The divorce forced Gaye to delay work on his next album, I Want You. It was eventually released in 1976, garnering critical acclaim and healthy sales. Two songs from the album became hit singles: the title track and "Got to Give it Up (Pt. 1)."

However, in 1978, hoping to escape personal problems (drugs and marital woes) and trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Gaye moved to Hawaii. The following year, he released a double album, Hear My Dear, which dealt with the pains experienced in his first marriage. As part of the divorce settlement, Gaye was ordered to pay all royalties from the album to his ex-wife.

In 1980, continuing pressure from the IRS compelled Gaye to flee even farther, to Europe, where he recorded his next album, In Our Lifetimes. When the record appeared in 1981, Gaye was aghast. Motown, he claimed, had altered the work without his consent and released an essentially unfinished album without his permission. In retribution, Gaye left the label in 1982 and signed with CBS records.

Motown must have rued the development, as Gaye's first album for CBS, Midnight Love, was a tremendous success. It sold two million copies and included the song "Sexual Healing," which was a hit single and earned Gaye a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance (Male).

In 1983, Gaye made a number of rare public appearances. He performed live at that year's Grammy broadcast and performed some concert dates. In addition, even though Gaye had ended his twenty-year relationship with Motown, he appeared on the company's memorable 25th anniversary television special.

Tragedy at Home

Despite Gaye's continued success, and his enduring stature as a major musical force, all was not well. During this period, Gaye reportedly exhibited erratic personal behavior and an increased dependence on cocaine. During his brief concert tour, Gaye had to be hospitalized for physical problems arising from his drug use. In addition, he reportedly developed an acute case of depression. Those closest to the singer indicated that Gaye suffered remorse over his two failed marriages—Janice Hunter, now Janice Gaye, had filed for divorce in 1979—and that he felt powerless to control his drug use and continued to grieve over the death of Terrell.

His physical and mental problems drove him back home, which proved unfortunate. In 1983, Gaye moved in with his parents, in the Los Angeles home he had bought for them eleven years earlier. This placed him under the same roof with his difficult father and only aggravated the longstanding hostility existing between the two men. In the dysfunctional environment, Gaye experienced sudden mood changes that provoked arguments with Marvin Gay, Sr.

Finally, on April 1, 1984, Gaye and his father reportedly got into an argument about money, and things turned violent. Marvin Gay, Sr. shot his son twice, at close range, with a .38 caliber revolver. Later, he claimed that he acted in self-defense. Following the shooting, Gaye was taken to the California Hospital Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The next day, Gaye would have been forty-five years old.

Gaye's death, and its violent nature, stunned an adoring public who had embraced the charismatic singer through all phases of his career. More than ten thousand people attended Gaye's open-casket funeral in Los Angeles, California. Robinson and Wonder delivered heart-felt eulogies.

After Gaye's death, Columbia and Motown collaborated on the 1985 release of two albums, Dream of a Lifetime and Romantically Yours, that included unreleased material from the 1970s and the "Midnight Love" sessions. In 1997, Motown released Vulnerable, an album of unreleased ballads.

Beside his wives, Gaye's survivors included Marvin III, whom he adopted during his first marriage, and son Frankie and daughter Nona, from his second marriage.

Marvin Gaye was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1992, his daughter Nona launched her own recording career on Third Stone Records.

Books

The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, Plume, 1989.

The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 1: 1981–1985, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.

Periodicals

Ebony, June 1994.

Rolling Stone, December 11, 2003; December 9, 2004.

Online

"Marvin Gaye," Classic Motown, http://classic.motown.com/artist.aspx?ob=per&srs=prd&aid=1 (January 3, 2006).

"Marvin Gaye," History of Rock, http://www.history-of-rock.com/marvin_gaye.htm (January 3, 2006).

"Marvin Gaye," Soulwalking,, http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Marvin%20Gaye.html (January 3, 2006).

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Gaye, Marvin 1939–1984

Marvin Gaye 19391984

Singer, songwriter

At a Glance

Social Consciousness and Sexuality

An Untimely Death

Selected discography

Sources

Marvin Gaye was one of the best-selling soul artists of his generation, a Motown prodigy whose work displayed everything from sexual passion to social consciousness. Gayes murder at the hands of his own father in 1984 shocked all but his closest friends, who knew of his family quarrels, his cocaine dependency, and his despondency despite a brilliant 1983 comeback. New York Times contributor Robert Palmer called Gaye one of the most gifted writer-arrangers, and one of the most musicianly singers, in pop music, adding that his songs have enjoyed a life far longer than that of most pop and soul hits.

Gayes tragic life was foreshadowed by his difficult childhood and rebellious teen years. He was born in 1939 in Washington, D.C., and was named after his father, Marvin Pentz Gay. The elder Gay was an evangelical minister who ruled his home with an iron fist, often beating his willful son. Although Marvin, Jr., first learned music in church, often performing after his fathers sermons, he longed for a secular career. After serving briefly in the Air Force, he returned to Washington and joined a vocal group called the Marquees. He added the e to the end of his name because he thought it looked more professional.

The Marquees made several recordings and attracted a following among the rhythm and blues crowd. In 1958 singer Harvey Fuqua drafted them to replace his original backup group, renaming them the Moonglows. During a concert in Detroit in 1961 Gaye met fledgling music producer Berry Gordy, whose Motown Records business showed great promise. Gordy persuaded Gaye to sign with Motown as a solo artist, and shortly after joining the label Gaye married Gordys sister, Anna. Gayes first work for Motown was as a backup instrumentalist on disks by Smokey Robinson, among others. He was not long in proving himself as a vocalist, however. His fourth Motown single, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, was the first of a staggering number of pop-soul hits that he would accumulate through the 1960s.

As Motown Records flourished, so did Marvin Gaye. His solo recordings and duets with Mary Wells and Kim Weston quickly assured him superstar status. Gayes best-known works from the 1960shits such as Can I Get a Witness, How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You, and most notably, I Heard It through the Grapevine

At a Glance

Born Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. (professionally known as Marvin Gaye), April 2, 1939, in Washington, DC; died of gunshot wounds, April 1, 1984; son of Marvin (a minister) and Alberta Gay; married Anna Gordy, c. 1964 (divorced, 1976); married Janis Hunter, 1976 (divorced, 1982); children: (first marriage) Marvin III; (second marriage) Nona, Frankie.

Singer, songwriter, guitar and piano player, 1956-84. Member of group the Marquees, 1957-58, and the Moonglows, 1958-61; solo and duet performer and recording artist, 1961-84. Signed with Motown Records, c. 1961, first hit record, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, 1962; moved to Columbia Records, 1982. Military service: Served in the U.S. Air Force.

Awards: Two Grammy Awards, 1983, for single Sexual Healing; numerous gold and platinum album citations.

are considered soul classics today. In the mid-1960s Gaye teamed with soprano Tammi Terrell for a series of romantic ballads, many of which also topped the charts. The Gaye-Terrell hit list included Youre All I Need to Get By, Your Precious Love, Aint Nothin Like the Real Thing, and Aint No Mountain High Enough.

Tragedy struck Gaye in 1967 when Terrell collapsed in his arms in the middle of a live concert. She died three years later after immense suffering caused by a brain tumor. Although Gaye claimed that he was not romantically involved with Terrell, her illness and death affected him profoundly. He took a hiatus from the business, and when he returned he insisted on retaining creative control of his work. At the time1971this demand was new to Motown; Gordy produced most of the albums and relied on a team of songwriters who churned out formula hits. Gaye was not the only artist who rebelled against the Motown system, but he was the first to do so. Late in 1971 he released Whats Going On, an album of songs he wrote, sang, and played himself.

Social Consciousness and Sexuality

Whats Going On was a milestone for Motown as well as for Gaye. The album addresses such timely issues as the Vietnam War, pollution, addiction, and the miseries of ghetto lifethe first Motown work to deal with social ills. Down Beat contributor Steve Bloom described the recording as a blistering indictment of Americas misguided priorities combined with God-is-the-answer proselytizingclearly the work of a preachers son. One single, Mercy, Mercy Me, made the Top 10 on the pop charts, and Gaye was praised universally for his cogent musical statements.

Ironically, having established himself as more than a dance-stepping, crooning Motown star, Gaye returned to romantic music almost immediately. Here too he blazed a new trail, however, offering frankly sexual songs that heaped praises on unseen lovers. His last hit of the 1970s, Lets Get It On, added volumes of suggestion to his reputation as a seductive ladies man. Sadly, Gaye began a long downward spiral in the mid-1970s, largely because he became seriously involved with cocaine use. He divorced Anna Gordy in 1976 and immediately married Janis Hunter. That marriage too collapsed, with allegations of beating and mental harassment. At one point Gaye even arranged for his son by his second marriage to be kidnapped and brought to him in Hawaii. (Hunter endured a week of anguish before she discovered her sons whereabouts.) During this period Gaye also attempted suicide by ingesting an ounce of cocaine in an hour.

By 1981 Gaye found himself deeply in debt to his ex-wives and the federal government. A tour of Europe, including a royal reception in England, revived his confidence somewhat, and he signed a new contract with Columbia Records. The executives at Columbia began to sort out his finances and brought him back to the studio to record. Gayes 1982 release Midnight Love was hailed as a masterful comeback; the single Sexual Healing won him his first two Grammy awards.

An Untimely Death

Unfortunately, Gaye had been unable to kick his cocaine habit. A tour in the wake of the Midnight Love album was marred by fits of paranoia and stage fright, and after it ended Gaye retreated into the home he had bought for his parents and spent most of his time taking drugs. He was shot at point-blank range after a Sunday morning quarrel with his father, the last of many heated arguments between the two. He died April 1,1984, one day short of his forty-fifth birthday.

Gaye died without a will, owing millions of dollars to the Internal Revenue Service. In the ensuing scramble to make money off his name, many of his family members revealed the details of his last monthshe was portrayed as a distrustful, anxious, and desperately unhappy person who tried repeatedly to free himself from the use of cocaine. Some even suggested that he provoked his father into the shooting as a macabre form of suicide he had been making suicide threats for some time.

In a Rolling Stone feature about Gayes estate, Mary A. Fischer wrote: The temptation is to think of Marvin Gaye as a reckless, selfish man who only took care of himselfand didnt even do a very good job of that. There was, of course, another side to him that was generous, charming and deep, and that produced so much memorable music. But he suffered from a lack of the thing he desperately longed for but never received his fathers love. Finally, it did him in. Steve Bloom preferred to accent the positive contributions Gaye made to the world of pop and soul. Bloom called Gayes legacy a body of brilliant music that will endure and continue to serve as inspiration to all, concluding: Risk-taking, rule-breaking, and love-making were what Marvin Gaye was all about.

Selected discography

Soulful Mood, Motown, 1961.

That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, Motown, 1963, re-released, 1989.

Marvin Gaye Live on Stage, Motown, 1963.

When Im Alone I Cry, Motown, 1964.

Marvin Gayes Greatest Hits, Motown, 1964.

How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You, Motown, 1964, re-released, 1989.

Hello Broadway, Motown, 1964.

(With Mary Wells) Together, Motown, 1964.

Tribute to Nat King Cole, Motown, 1965.

The Moods of Marvin Gaye, Motown, 1966, re-released, 1989.

Take Two, Motown, 1966.

(With Tammi Terrell) United, Motown, 1966.

(With Terrell) Youre All I Need to Get By, Motown, 1968.

In the Groove, Motown, 1968.

MPG, Motown, 1969, re-released, 1989.

Marvin Gaye & His Girls, Motown, 1969.

Easy, Motown, 1969.

Thats the Way Love Is, Motown, 1969, re-released, 1989.

Marvin Gayes Greatest Hits, Motown, 1970.

Whats Going On, Motown, 1971.

Troubled Man, Motown, 1972.

Lets Get It On, Motown, 1973.

(With Diana Ross) Marvin & Diana, Motown, 1974.

Marvin Gaye Live, Motown, 1974.

Marvin Gaye Anthology, Motown, 1974.

I Want You, Motown, 1976, re-released, 1989.

The Best of Marvin Gaye, Motown, 1976.

Marvin Gaye Live at the London Palladium, Motown, 1977.

Here My Dear, Motown, 1978.

In Our Lifetime, Motown, 1981.

Midnight Love, Columbia, 1982.

Dream of a Lifetime, Columbia, 1986.

Romantically Yours, Columbia, 1986.

Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye, Motown, 1986.

Compact Command Performance, Volumes 1 and 2, Motown, 1986.

I Heard It through the Grapevine, Motown, 1989.

Sources

Books

Ritz, David, Divided Soul (biography), 1986.

Periodicals

Down Beat, January 1986.

High Fidelity, April 1979.

New York Times, April 2, 1984.

People, January 24, 1983; April 16, 1984.

Rolling Stone, May 10, 1984; May 24, 1984; October 9, 1986.

Time, October 11, 1971.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Gaye, Marvin

Marvin Gaye

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Marvin Gaye was one of the best-selling soul artists of his generation, a Motown prodigy whose work displayed everything from sexual passion to social consciousness. Gayes murder at the hands of his own father in 1984 shocked all but his closest friends, who knew of his family quarrels, his cocaine dependency, and his despondency despite a brilliant 1983 comeback. New York Times contributor Robert Palmer called Gaye one of the most gifted writer-arrangers, and one of the most musicianly singers, in pop music, adding that his songs have enjoyed a life far longer than that of most pop and soul hits.

Gayes tragic life was foreshadowed by his difficult childhood and rebellious teen years. He was born in 1939 in Washington, D.C., and was named after his father, Marvin Pentz Gay. The elder Gay was an evangelical minister who ruled his home with an iron fist, often beating his willful son. Although Marvin, Jr., first learned music in church, often performing after his fathers sermons, he longed for a secular career. After serving briefly in the Air Force, he returned to Washington and joined a vocal group called the Marquees. He added the e to the end of his name because he thought it looked more professional.

The Marquees made several recordings and attracted a following among the rhythm and blues crowd. In 1958 singer Harvey Fuqua drafted them to replace his original backup group, renaming them the Moonglows. During a concert in Detroit in 1961 Gaye met fledgling music producer Berry Gordy, whose Motown Records business showed great promise. Gordy persuaded Gaye to sign with Motown as a solo artist, and shortly after joining the label Gaye married Gordys sister, Anna. Gayes first work for Motown was as a backup instrumentalist on disks by Smokey Robinson, among others. He was not long in proving himself as a vocalist, however. His fourth Motown single, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, was the first of a staggering number of pop-soul hits that he would accumulate through the 1960s.

As Motown Records flourished, so did Marvin Gaye. His solo recordings and duets with Mary Wells and Kim Weston quickly assured him superstar status. Gayes best-known works from the 1960shits such as Can I Get a Witness, How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You, and most importantly, I Heard It Through the Grapevineare considered soul classics today. In the mid-1960s Gaye teamed with soprano Tammi Terrell for a series of romantic ballads, many of which also topped the charts. The Gaye-Terrell hit list included Youre All I Need to Get By, Your Precious Love, Aint Nothin Like the Real Thing, and Aint No Mountain High Enough.

For the Record

Name originally Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., changed name to Marvin Gaye for professional purposes; born April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C.; died of gunshot wounds April 1, 1984; son of Marvin (a minister) and Alberta Gay; married Anna Gordy, c. 1964 (divorced, 1976); married Janis Hunter, 1976 (divorced, 1982); children: (first marriage) Marvin III, (second marriage) Nona, Frankie.

Singer, songwriter, guitar and piano player, 1956-84. Member of group the Marquees, 1957-58, and the Moonglows, 1958-61; solo or duet performer, 1961-84. Signed with Motown Records, c. 1961, had first hit record, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, 1962. Moved to Columbia Records, 1982. Militan; service: Served in United States Air Force.

Awards: Two Grammy Awards, 1983, for single Sexual Healing. Numerous gold and platinum album citations.

Tragedy struck Gaye in 1967 when Terrell collapsed in his arms in the middle of a live concert. She died three years later after immense suffering caused by a brain tumor. Although Gaye claimed that he was not romantically involved with Terrell, her illness and death affected him profoundly. He took a hiatus from the business, and when he returned he insisted on retaining creative control of his work. At the time1971this demand was new to Motown; Gordy produced most of the albums and relied on a team of songwriters who churned out formula hits. Gaye was not the only artist who rebelled against the Motown system, but he was the first to do so. Late in 1971 he released Whats Going On, an album of songs he wrote, sang, and played himself.

Whats Going On was a milestone for Motown as well as for Gaye. The album addresses such timely issues as the Vietnam War, pollution, addiction, and the miseries of ghetto lifethe first Motown work to deal with social ills, down beat contributor Steve Bloom describes the recording as a blistering indictment of Americas misguided priorities combined with God-is-the-answer proselytizingclearly the work of a preachers son. One single, Mercy, Mercy Me, made the Top 10 on the pop charts, and Gaye was praised universally for his cogent musical statements.

Ironically, having established himself as more than a dance-stepping, crooning Motown star, Gaye returned to romantic music almost immediately. Here too he blazed a new trail, however, offering frankly sexual songs that heaped praises on unseen lovers. His last hit of the 1970s, Lets Get It On, added volumes of suggestion to his reputation as a seductive ladies man. Sadly, Gaye began a long downward spiral in the mid-1970s, largely because he became seriously involved with cocaine use. He divorced Anna Gordy in 1976 and immediately married Janis Hunter. That marriage too collapsed, with allegations of beating and mental harassment. At one point Gaye even arranged for his second son to be kidnapped and brought to him in Hawaii (Hunter endured a week of anguish before she discovered her sons whereabouts). During this period Gaye also attempted suicide by ingesting an ounce of cocaine in an hour.

By 1981 Gaye found himself deeply in debt to his exwives and the federal government. A tour of Europe, including a royal reception in England, revived his confidence somewhat, and he signed a new contract with Columbia Records. The executives at Columbia began to sort out his finances and brought him back to the studio to record. Gayes 1982 release Midnight Love was hailed as a masterful comeback; the single Sexual Healing won him his first two Grammy awards.

Unfortunately, Gaye had been unable to kick his cocaine habit. A tour in the wake of the Midnight Love album was marred by fits of paranoia and stage fright, and after it ended Gaye retreated into the home he had bought for his parents and spent most of his time taking drugs. He was shot at point-blank range after a Sunday morning quarrel with his father, the last of many heated arguments between the two. He died one day short of his forty-fifth birthday.

Gaye died without a will, owing millions of dollars to the Internal Revenue Service. In the ensuing scramble to make money off his name, many of his family members revealed the details of his last monthshe was portrayed as a distrustful, anxious, and desperately unhappy person who tried repeatedly to free himself from the use of cocaine. Some even suggested that he provoked his father into the shooting as a macabre form of suicidehe had been making suicide threats for some time.

In a Rolling Stone feature about Gayes estate, Mary A. Fischer wrote: The temptation is to think of Marvin Gaye as a reckless, selfish man who only took care of himselfand didnt even do a very good job of that. There was, of course, another side to him that was generous, charming and deep, and that produced so much memorable music. But he suffered from a lack of the thing he desperately longed for but never received his fathers love. Finally, it did him in. Steve Bloom preferred to accent the positive contributions Gaye made to the world of pop and soul. Bloom called Gayes legacy a body of brilliantmusic that will endure and continue to serve as inspiration to all, concluding: Risk-taking, rule-breaking, and love-making were what Marvin Gaye was all about.

Selected discography

Soulful Mood, Motown, 1961.

That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, Motown, 1963, re-released, 1989.

Marvin Gaye Live on Stage, Motown, 1963.

When Im Alone I Cry, Motown, 1964.

Marvin Gayes Greatest Hits, Motown, 1964.

How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You, Motown, 1964, re-released, 1989.

Hello Broadway, Motown, 1964.

(With Mary Wells) Together, Motown, 1964.

Tribute to Nat King Cole, Motown, 1965.

The Moods of Marvin Gaye, Motown, 1966, re-released, 1989.

Take Two, Motown, 1966.

(With Tammi Terrell) United, Motown, 1966. (With Terrell) Youre All I Need to Get By, Motown, 1968.

In the Groove, Motown, 1968.

MPG, Motown, 1969, re-released, 1989.

Marvin Gaye & His Girls, Motown, 1969.

Easy, Motown, 1969.

Thats the Way Love Is, Motown, 1969, re-released, 1989.

Marvin Gayes Greatest Hits, Motown, 1970.

Whats Going On, Motown, 1971.

Troubled Man, Motown, 1972.

Lets Get It On, Motown, 1973.

(With Diana Ross)Marvin & Diana, Motown, 1974.

Marvin Gaye Live, Motown, 1974.

Marvin Gaye Anthology, Motown, 1974.

I Want You, Motown, 1976, re-released, 1989.

The Best of Marvin Gaye, Motown, 1976.

Marvin Gaye Live at the London Palladium, Motown, 1977.

Here My Dear, Motown, 1978.

In Our Lifetime, Motown, 1981.

Midnight Love, Columbia, 1982.

Dream of a Lifetime, Columbia, 1986.

Romantically Yours, Columbia, 1986.

Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye, Motown, 1986.

Compact Command Performance, Volumes 1 and 2, Motown, 1986.

I Heard It through the Grapevine, Motown, 1989.

Sources

Books

Ritz, David, Divided Soul (biography), 1986.

Periodicals

down beat, January 1986.

High Fidelity, April 1979.

New York Times, April 2, 1984.

People, January 24, 1983; April 16, 1984.

Rolling Stone, May 10, 1984; May 24, 1984; October 9, 1986.

Time, October 11, 1971.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Gaye, Marvin

Gaye, Marvin (1939–84) US singer-songwriter. His hit singles included ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ (1968) and ‘Too Busy Thinking 'Bout My Baby’ (1968). Gaye released a string of classic soul albums, including What's Going On (1971), Let's Get It On (1973) and Midnight Love (1982). Gaye was shot dead by his father during an argument.

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