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One of the most gifted, visionary, and enduring talents ever launched into orbit by the Motown hit machine, Marvin Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular black music. Moving from lean, powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also expanded its impact as an agent for social change.
Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. (in the style of his hero Sam Cooke, he added the "e" to his surname as an adult) was born April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C. The second of three children born to the Reverend Marvin Gay, Sr., an ordained minister in the House of God -- a conservative Christian sect that fuses elements of orthodox Judaism and Pentecostalism, imposes strict codes of conduct, and observes no holidays -- he began singing in church at the age of three, quickly becoming a soloist in the choir. Gaye later took up piano and drums, and music became his escape from the nightmarish realities of his home life -- throughout his childhood, his father beat him on an almost daily basis.
After graduating from high school, Gaye enlisted in the U.S. Air Force; upon his discharge, he returned to Washington and began singing in a number of street-corner doo wop groups, eventually joining the Rainbows, a top local attraction. With the help of mentor Bo Diddley, the Rainbows cut "Wyatt Earp," a single for the OKeh label that brought them to the attention of singer Harvey Fuqua, who in 1958 recruited the group to become the latest edition of his backing ensemble, the Moonglows. After relocating to Chicago, the Moonglows recorded a series of singles for Chess, including 1959's "Mama Loocie." While touring the Midwest, the group performed in Detroit, where Gaye's graceful tenor and three-octave vocal range won the interest of fledgling impresario Berry Gordy, Jr., who signed him to the Motown label in 1961.
While first working at Motown as a session drummer and playing on early hits by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, he met Gordy's sister Anna, and married her in late 1961. Upon mounting a solo career, Gaye struggled to find his voice, and early singles failed. Finally, his fourth effort, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," became a minor hit in 1962, and his next two singles -- the 1963 dance efforts "Hitch Hike" and "Can I Get a Witness" -- both reached the Top 30. With 1963's "Pride and Joy," Gaye scored his first Top Ten smash, but often found his role as a hitmaker stifling -- his desire to become a crooner of lush romantic ballads ran in direct opposition to Motown's all-important emphasis on chart success, and the ongoing battle between his artistic ambitions and the label's demands for commercial product continued throughout Gaye's long tenure with the company.
With 1964's Together, a collection of duets with Mary Wells, Gaye scored his first charting album; the duo also notched a number of hit singles together, including "Once Upon a Time" and "What's the Matter With You, Baby?" As a solo performer, Gaye continued to enjoy great success, scoring three superb Top Ten hits -- "Ain't That Peculiar," "I'll Be Doggone," and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" -- in 1965. In total, he scored some 39 Top 40 singles for Motown, many of which he also wrote and arranged. With Kim Weston, the second of his crucial vocal partners, he also established himself as one of the era's dominant duet singers with the stunning "It Takes Two."
However, Gaye's greatest duets were with Tammi Terrell, with whom he scored a series of massive hits penned by the team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, including 1967's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Your Precious Love," followed by 1968's "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By." The team's success was tragically cut short in 1967 when, during a concert appearance in Virginia, Terrell collapsed into Gaye's arms on-stage, the first evidence of a brain tumor that abruptly ended her performing career and finally killed her on March 16, 1970. Her illness and eventual loss left Gaye deeply shaken, marring the chart-topping 1968 success of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," his biggest hit and arguably the pinnacle of the Motown sound.
At the same time, Gaye was forced to cope with a number of other personal problems, not the least of which was his crumbling marriage. He also found the material he recorded for Motown to be increasingly irrelevant in the face of the tremendous social changes sweeping the nation, and after scoring a pair of 1969 Top Ten hits with "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and "That's the Way Love Is," he spent the majority of 1970 in seclusion, resurfacing early the next year with the self-produced What's Going On, a landmark effort heralding a dramatic shift in both content and style that forever altered the face of black music. A highly percussive album that incorporated jazz and classical elements to forge a remarkably sophisticated and fluid soul sound, What's Going On was a conceptual masterpiece that brought Gaye's deeply held spiritual beliefs to the fore to explore issues ranging from poverty and discrimination to the environment, drug abuse, and political corruption; chief among the record's concerns was the conflict in Vietnam, as Gaye structured the songs around the point of view of his brother Frankie, himself a soldier recently returned from combat.
The ambitions and complexity of What's Going On baffled Berry Gordy, who initially refused to release the LP; he finally relented, although he maintained that he never understood the record's full scope. Gaye was vindicated when the majestic title track reached the number two spot in 1971, and both of the follow-ups, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," also reached the Top Ten. The album's success guaranteed Gaye continued artistic control over his work and helped loosen the reins for other Motown artists, most notably Stevie Wonder, to also take command of their own destinies. Consequently, in 1972, Gaye changed directions again, agreeing to score the blaxploitation thriller Trouble Man; the resulting soundtrack was a primarily instrumental effort showcasing his increasing interest in jazz, although a vocal turn on the moody, minimalist title track scored another Top Ten smash.
The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye's work reached its boiling point with 1973's Let's Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded; a work of intense lust and longing, it became the most commercially successful effort of his career, and the title cut became his second number one hit. Let's Get It On also marked another significant shift in Gaye's lyrical outlook, moving him from the political arena to a deeply personal, even insular stance that continued to define his subsequent work. After teaming with Diana Ross for the 1973 duet collection Marvin and Diana, he returned to work on his next solo effort, I Want You; however, the record's completion was delayed by his 1975 divorce from Anna Gordy. The dissolution of his marriage threw Gaye into a tailspin, and he spent much of the mid-'70s in divorce court. To combat Gaye's absence from the studio, Motown released the 1977 stopgap Live at the London Palladium, which spawned the single "Got to Give It Up, Pt. 1," his final number one hit.
As a result of a 1976 court settlement, Gaye was ordered to make good on missed alimony payments by recording a new album, with the intention that all royalties earned from its sales would then be awarded to his ex-wife. The 1978 record, a two-LP set sardonically titled Here, My Dear, bitterly explored the couple's relationship in such intimate detail that Anna Gordy briefly considered suing Gaye for invasion of privacy. In the interim, he had remarried and begun work on another album, Lover Man, but scrapped the project when the "Ego Tripping Out" lead single -- a telling personal commentary presented as a duet between the spiritual and sexual halves of his identity, which biographer David Ritz later dubbed the singer's "divided soul" -- failed to chart. As his drug problems increased and his marriage to new wife Janis also began to fail, he relocated to Hawaii in an attempt to sort out his personal affairs.
In 1981, longstanding tax difficulties and renewed pressures from the IRS forced Gaye to flee to Europe, where he began work on the ambitious In Our Lifetime, a deeply philosophical record that ultimately severed his longstanding relationship with Motown after he claimed the label had remixed and edited the album without his consent. Additionally, Gaye stated that the finished artwork parodied his original intent, and that even the title had been changed to drop an all-important question mark. Upon signing with Columbia in 1982, he battled stories of erratic behavior and a consuming addiction to cocaine to emerge triumphant with Midnight Love, an assured comeback highlighted by the luminous Top Three hit "Sexual Healing." The record made Gaye a star yet again, and in 1983 he made peace with Berry Gordy by appearing on a television special celebrating Motown's silver anniversary. That same year, he also sang a soulful and idiosyncratic rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the NBA All-Star Game; it instantly became one of the most controversial and legendary interpretations of the anthem ever performed. And it was to be his final public appearance.
Gaye's career resurgence brought with it an increased reliance on cocaine; finally, his personal demons forced him back to the U.S., where he moved in with his parents in an attempt to regain control of his life. Tragically, the return home only exacerbated his spiral into depression; he and his father quarrelled bitterly, and Gaye threatened suicide on a number of occasions. Finally, on the afternoon of April 1, 1984 -- one day before his 45th birthday -- Gaye was shot and killed by Marvin Sr. in the aftermath of a heated argument. In the wake of his death, Motown and Columbia teamed up to issue two 1985 collections of outtakes, Dream of a Lifetime -- a compilation of erotic funk workouts teamed with spiritual ballads -- and the big band-inspired Romantically Yours. (Vulnerable, a collection of ballads that took over 12 years to complete, finally saw release in 1996.) With Gaye's death also came a critical re-evaluation of his work, which deemed What's Going On to be one of the landmark albums in pop history, and his 1987 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame permanently enshrined him among the pantheon of musical greats.
Marvin Gaye (/ɡeɪ/; born Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer-songwriter and musician.
Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits, including "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", and duet recordings with Mary Wells, Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles "Prince of Motown" and "Prince of Soul". During the 1970s, he recorded the concept albums What's Going On and Let's Get It On and became one of the first artists in Motown to break away from the reins of its production company.
Gaye's later recordings influenced several R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo-soul. Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, Gaye released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit "Sexual Healing" and the Midnight Love album.
He was fatally shot by his father, Marvin Gay, Sr. on April 1, 1984, at their house in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. Since his death, Gaye has been posthumously honored by many institutions, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.Simmonds 2008, pp. 190–192. "Gaye". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (October 10, 1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide (Ratings 1–10) (1st edi. ed.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. pp. s. 202–205. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. OCLC 32508105. Retrieved 2013-12-24. "Marvin Gaye House". Retrieved June 18, 2012. Dial Them For Murder. Los Angeles Magazine. January 1998. Retrieved September 13, 2012. "Marvin Gaye Timeline". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. January 21, 1987. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
Marvin Gaye was born as Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr on April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C., to church minister Marvin Gay, Sr., and domestic worker Alberta Gay (née Cooper). His first home was 1617 First Street SW, a few blocks from Anacostia River. The First Street neighborhood was nicknamed "Simple City" owing to its being "half-city, half country". When Gaye was in his teens, the family relocated to the Deanwood section of north eastern D.C. Gaye was the second eldest of Marvin Gay, Sr.'s children and the third overall of six. He had two sisters: Jeanne and Zeola, and three brothers: Michael Cooper, Frankie Gaye and Antwaun Gaye. Michael Cooper was from his mother's previous relationship while Antwaun was born as a result of his father's extramarital affairs.
Gaye started singing in church when he was four years old; his father often accompanied him on piano. Gaye and his family were part of a Pentecostal church known as the House of God. The House of God took its teachings from Hebrew Pentecostalism, advocated strict conduct, and adhered to both the Old and New Testaments. Gaye developed a love of singing at an early age and was encouraged to pursue a professional music career after a performance at a school play. His home life consisted of "brutal whippings" by his father, who struck him for any shortcoming. The young Gaye described living under his father's house as similar to "living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel and all powerful king". He felt that had his mother not consoled him, and encouraged his singing, he would have killed himself. His sister later explained that Gaye was beaten often, from age seven well into his teenage years.
Gaye attended Cardozo High School and joined several doo-wop vocal groups, including the Dippers and the D.C. Tones. Gaye's relationship with his father worsened during his teenage years as his father would kick him out of the house for what he perceived was misbehavior. Following an argument in which he stood up against his father, Gaye walked out of the house for good and dropped out of high school. With dreams of being a pilot, 17-year-old Gaye enlisted in the United States Air Force as a basic airman. Disappointed in having to perform menial tasks, he faked mental illness and was discharged shortly afterwards. Gaye's sergeant stated that he refused to follow orders.Ritz 1991, p. 6. Ritz 1991, p. 13. Gaye 2003, p. 4. "Gaye's second wife calls play 'completely and utterly exploitative'". February 16, 2013. Retrieved February 17, 2013. Browne 2001, p. 316. Ritz 1991, p. 14. Gaye 2003, p. 8. Ritz 1991, p. 5. Ritz 1991, p. 11. Ritz 1991, p. 12. Ritz 1991, p. 13: "If it wasn't for Mother, who was always there to console me and praise me for my singing, I think I would have been one of those child suicide cases you read about in the papers". Ritz 1991, p. 12: "From the time he was seven until he became a teenager, Marvin's life at home consisted of a series of brutal whippings". Gulla 2008, p. 333. Ritz 1991, p. 25. Ritz 1991, p. 34. Redfern 2007, p. 228. Ritz 1991, p. 36. "Marvin Gaye No Military Hit". September 13, 2005. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
ContentsCareer1.1 Early career1.2 Initial success1.3 What's Going On and subsequent success1.4 Last Motown recordings and European exile1.5 Midnight Love
Following his return, Marvin and good friend Reese Palmer formed the vocal quartet The Marquees. The group performed in the D.C. area and soon began working with Bo Diddley, who assigned the group to Columbia subsidiary OKeh Records after failure to get the group signed to his own label, Chess. The group's sole single, "Wyatt Earp", failed to chart and the group was soon dropped from the label. Marvin began composing music during this period. The Marquees were later hired by Moonglows co-founder Harvey Fuqua as his employees. Under Fuqua's direction, the group changed its name to Harvey and the "New Moonglows" relocating them to Chicago. The group recorded several sides for Chess in 1959, including the song "Mama Loocie", which was Marvin's first lead vocal recording. The group found work as session singers for established acts such as Chuck Berry, singing on the hits "Back in the U.S.A." and "Almost Grown". In 1960, the group disbanded and Marvin relocated to Detroit with Fuqua where he signed with Tri-Phi Records as a session musician, playing drums on several Tri-Phi releases. Marvin performed at Motown president Berry Gordy's house during the holiday season in 1960. Impressed by the singer, Gordy sought Fuqua on his contract with Marvin. Fuqua agreed to sell part of his interest in his contract with Gaye. Shortly afterwards, Marvin signed with Motown subsidiary Tamla.
When Marvin signed with Tamla, he pursued a career as a performer of jazz music and standards, having no desire to become an R&B performer. Before the release of his first single, Marvin was teased about his surname, with some jokingly asking, "Is Marvin Gay?" Marvin changed his surname by adding an "e", following the style of Sam Cooke. Author David Ritz wrote that the move was to silence rumours of his sexuality while adding the move also was designed to bring more distance between Marvin and his father. Gaye released his first single, "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide" in May 1961, with the album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, following a month later. Gaye's initial recordings were flops. Gaye spent most of 1961 performing session work as a drummer for artists such as The Miracles and The Marvelettes and was being paid $5 (US$39 in 2015 dollars) a week playing drums for the Miracles and blues artist Jimmy Reed. While Gaye would take some advice on performing with his eyes open (having been accused of appearing as though he were sleeping), Gaye refused to attend grooming school courses at the John Roberts Powers School for Social Grace in Detroit because of his unwillingness to comply with its orders, something he later regretted.
In 1962, Gaye found success as co-writer of the Marvelettes hit, "Beechwood 4-5789". His first solo hit, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow", was later released that September, reaching number 8 on the R&B chart and number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gaye reached the top 50 with the dance song, "Hitch Hike", peaking at number 30 on the Hot 100. "Pride and Joy" became Gaye's first top ten single after its release in 1963. The three singles and songs from the 1962 sessions were included on Gaye's second album, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow. Starting in October of the year, Gaye performed as part of the Motortown Revue, a series of concert tours headlined at the north and south eastern coasts of the United States as part of the chitlin' circuit. A filmed performance of Gaye at the Apollo Theater took place in June 1963. Later that October, Tamla issued the live album, Marvin Gaye Recorded Live on Stage. "Can I Get a Witness" became one of Gaye's early international hits.
In 1964, Gaye recorded a successful duet album with singer Mary Wells titled Together, which reached 42 on the pop album chart. The album's two-sided single, including "Once Upon a Time" and "What's the Matter With You Baby", each reach the top 20. Gaye's next solo hit, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)", written for Gaye by Holland-Dozier-Holland, reached number 6 on the Hot 100 and reached the top 50 in the UK. Gaye started getting some TV exposure around this time on shows such as American Bandstand. Also in 1964, he appeared in the concert film, The T.A.M.I. Show. Gaye had two number one R&B singles in 1965 with the Miracles-composed "I'll Be Doggone" and "Ain't That Peculiar". Both songs became million-sellers.
After scoring a hit duet, "It Takes Two" with Kim Weston, Gaye began working with Tammi Terrell on a series of duets, mostly composed by Ashford & Simpson, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Your Precious Love", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By".
In October 1967, Terrell collapsed in Gaye's arms during a performance in Farmville, Virginia. Terrell was subsequently rushed to Farmville's Southside Community Hospital, where doctors discovered she had a malignant tumour in her brain. The diagnosis ended Terrell's career as a live performer, though she continued to record music under careful supervision. Despite the presence of hit singles such as "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By", Terrell's illness led to problems with recording with repeated operations to remove the tumor. Gaye was reportedly devastated by Terrell's sickness and became disillusioned with the record business. In late 1968, Gaye's recording of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was released and became Gaye's first to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100; it also reached the top of the charts in other countries, selling well over four million copies. However, Gaye felt the success was something he "didn't deserve" and that he "felt like a puppet—Berry's puppet, Anna's puppet...." Gaye followed it up with "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and "That's the Way Love Is", which reached the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. That year, his album M.P.G. became his first number one R&B album. Gaye produced and co-wrote two hits for The Originals during this period, including "Baby I'm For Real" and "The Bells".
On March 16, 1970, Tammi Terrell died from brain cancer, and Gaye attended her funeral. Following this, he went into prolonged seclusion from the music business. After a period of depression, Gaye sought out a position on a professional football team, the Detroit Lions, where he later befriended Mel Farr and Lem Barney. It was eventually decided that Gaye would not be allowed to try out owing to fears of possible injuries that could have affected his music career.
What's Going On and subsequent successMain articles: What's Going On (Marvin Gaye album) and Let's Get It On
On June 1, 1970, Gaye returned to Hitsville U.S.A., where he recorded his new composition "What's Going On", inspired by an idea from Renaldo "Obie" Benson of the Four Tops after he witnessed an act of police brutality at an anti-war rally in Berkeley. Upon hearing the song, Berry Gordy refused its release due to his feelings of the song being "too political" for radio. Gaye responded by going on strike from recording until the label released the song. Released in 1971, it reached number one on the R&B charts within a month, staying there for five weeks. It also reached the top spot on Cashbox's pop chart for a week and reached number two on the Hot 100 and the Record World chart, selling over two million copies.
After giving an ultimatum to record a full album to win creative control from Motown, Gaye spent ten days recording the What's Going On album that March. Motown issued the album that May after Gaye remixed portions of the album in Hollywood. The album became Gaye's first million-selling album launching two more top ten singles, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues". One of Motown's first autonomous works, its theme and segue flow brought the concept album format to rhythm and blues and was later cited by an AllMusic writer as being "the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices". For the album, Gaye received two Grammy Award nominations and several NAACP Image Awards. The album also topped Rolling Stone's year-end list as its album of the year. Billboard magazine named Gaye Trendsetter of the Year following the album's success. In 1971, Gaye signed a new deal with Motown worth $1 million (US$5,823,336 in 2015 dollars), making it the most lucrative deal by a black recording artist at the time. Gaye first responded to the new contract with the soundtrack and subsequent score, Trouble Man, released in late 1972.
In 1973, Gaye released the Let's Get It On album. Its title track became Gaye's second number one single on the Hot 100. The album subsequently stayed on the charts for two years and sold over three million copies. The album was later hailed as "a record unparalleled in its sheer sensuality and carnal energy." Other singles from the album included "Come Get to This", which recalled Gaye's early Motown soul sound of the previous decade, while the suggestive "You Sure Love to Ball" reached modest success but received tepid promotion due to the song's sexually explicit content. Marvin's final duet project, Diana & Marvin, with Diana Ross, garnered international success. Responding to demand from fans and Motown, Gaye started his first tour in four years at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 4, 1974. The performance received critical acclaim and resulted in the release of the live album, Marvin Gaye Live! and its single, a live version of "Distant Lover", an album track from Let's Get It On.
The tour helped to increase Gaye's reputation as a live performer. For a time, he was earning $10,000 a night (US$47,821 in 2015 dollars) for performances. Gaye toured throughout 1974 and 1975. A renewed contract with Motown allowed Gaye to build his own custom-made recording studio. In October 1975, Gaye gave a performance at a UNESCO benefit concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall to support UNESCO's African literacy drive, resulting in him being commended at the United Nations by then-Ambassador to Ghana Shirley Temple Black and Kurt Waldheim. Gaye's next studio album, I Want You, followed in 1976 with the title track becoming a number-one R&B hit. That summer, Gaye embarked on his first European tour in a decade, starting off in England. In early 1977, Gaye issued the live album, Live at the London Palladium, which sold over two million copies thanks to the success of its studio song, "Got to Give It Up", which became a number one hit.
Last Motown recordings and European exileMain articles: Here, My Dear and In Our Lifetime (Marvin Gaye album)
In December 1978, Gaye issued Here, My Dear, inspired by the fallout of his first marriage to Anna Gordy. Recorded as an intent for Gaye to remit a portion of its royalties to her to receive alimony payments, it flopped on the charts. During that period, Gaye developed a serious dependence and addiction to cocaine and was dealing with several financial issues with the IRS. These issues led him to move to Maui, where he struggled to record a disco album. In 1980, Gaye went on a European tour. By the time the tour stopped, the singer relocated to London where he feared imprisonment for failure to pay back taxes, which had now reached upwards of $4.5 million.(US$12,880,250 in 2015 dollars)
Gaye then reworked Love Man from its original disco concept to another personal album invoking religion and the possible end time from a chapter in the Book of Revelation. Titling the album, In Our Lifetime?, Gaye provided work on the album for much of 1980 in London studios such as Air and Odyssey Studios. In the fall of that year, a master tape of a rough draft of the album was stolen from one of Gaye's traveling musicians, Frank Blair, who took the master tape to Motown's Hollywood headquarters. Motown remixed the album and issued it on January 15, 1981. When Gaye learned of its release, Gaye accused Motown of editing and remixing the album without his consent, allowing the issue of an unfinished production ("Far Cry"), altering the album art of his request and removing the album title's question mark, muting its irony. He also accused the label of rush-releasing the album, comparing his unfinished album to an unfinished Picasso painting. Gaye then vowed not to record any more music for Motown.
On February 14, 1981, under the advice of music promoter Freddy Cousaert, Gaye relocated to Cousaert's apartment in Ostend, Belgium. While there, Gaye shied away from heavy drug use and began exercising and attending a local Ostend church, regaining personal confidence. Following several months of recovery, Gaye sought a comeback onstage, starting the short-lived Heavy Love Affair tour in England and Ostend between June and July 1981. Gaye's personal attorney Curtis Shaw would later describe Gaye's Ostend period as "the best thing that ever happened to Marvin". When word got around that Gaye was planning a musical comeback and an exit from Motown, CBS Urban president Larkin Arnold eventually was able to convince Gaye to sign with CBS. On March 23, 1982, Motown and CBS Records negotiated for Gaye to be released from Motown. The details of the contract were kept from being revealed due to a possible negative effect on the singer's settlement to creditors from the IRS.
Midnight LoveMain articles: Midnight Love and Sexual Healing
Assigned to CBS' Columbia subsidiary, Gaye worked on his first post-Motown album titled Midnight Love. The first single, "Sexual Healing", was released on September 30, 1982, and became Marvin's biggest career hit, spending a record ten weeks at number one on the Hot Black Singles chart, becoming the biggest R&B hit of the 1980s according to Billboard stats. The success later translated to the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1983 where it peaked at number three, while the record reached international success, reaching the top spot in New Zealand and Canada and reaching the top ten on the United Kingdom's OCC singles chart, later selling over two million copies in the US alone, becoming Gaye's most successful single to date. The video for the song was shot at Ostend's Casino-Kursaal. "Sexual Healing" won Gaye his first two Grammy Awards including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, in February 1983, and also won Gaye an American Music Award in the R&B-soul category. It was called "America's hottest musical turn-on since Olivia Newton John demanded we get 'Physical'" by People magazine. Midnight Love was released to stores a day after the single's release and was as successful as the single, peaking at the top ten of the Billboard 200 and becoming Gaye's eighth number-one album on the Top Black Albums chart, eventually selling over six million copies worldwide, three million alone in the United States.NME – December 1982
On February 13, 1983, Gaye performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the NBA All-Star Game, held at The Forum in Inglewood, California, accompanied by Gordon Banks, who played the studio tape from stands. The following month, Gaye performed at the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special. This and a May appearance on Soul Train, his third appearance overall on the show, became Gaye's final television performances. Gaye embarked on his final concert tour, titled the Sexual Healing Tour, on April 18, 1983 in San Diego. The tour ended on August 14, 1983 at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, California but was plagued by cocaine-triggered paranoia and illness. Following the concert's end, he retreated to his parents' house in Los Angeles. In early 1984, Midnight Love was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance category, his fourteenth and final nomination."Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks – MARQUEES". Retrieved July 4, 2012. Ritz 1991, p. 38. Ritz 1991, p. 39. Ritz 1991, p. 40. Ritz 1991, p. 47. Edmonds 2001a, p. 24. Ritz 1991, p. 25. Jet 1985b, p. 17. Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014. Bowman 2006, p. 6. Des Barres 1996, p. 107. Posner 2002, p. 116. Ritz 1991, p. 88. Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 26 – The Soul Reformation: Phase two, the Motown story. [Part 5]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Gaye 2003, p. 65. Kempton 2005, p. 207. Posner 2002, p. 225. Ritz 1991, p. 126. Gulla 2008, p. 344. Jet 1970, p. 60. Jason Plautz (June 30, 2011). "Marvin Gaye, Detroit Lions Wide Receiver?". Mental Floss. Retrieved March 1, 2012. Music Urban Legends Revealed #16. Legendsrevealed.com (July 29, 2009). Retrieved on 2012-05-14. Gates 2004, p. 332. Lynskey 2011, pp. 155. Bowman, Rob (April 2006). "Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing". Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981: 16. Vincent 1996, p. 129. Whitburn 2004, p. 250. Lynskey 2011, p. 157. John Bush. What's Going On remains one of the few examples in modern music of critical acclaim and immediate commercial success occurring simultaneously. What's Going On was the first in a series of Motown albums in which albums overtook singles in commercial importance as well as cultural significance.review of What's Going On, by Marvin Gaye, allmusic.com (accessed June 10, 2005) Jet 1973, p. 60. MacKenzie 2009, p. 156. Jason Ankeny, review of Let's Get It On, by Marvin Gaye, allmusic.com (accessed June 10, 2005). Edmonds 2001b, pp. 8–9. Edmonds 2001b, p. 14. "Let's Get It On – Marvin Gaye". SuperSeventies.com. Retrieved September 2, 2012. Jet 1975, p. 19. Ritz 1991, p. 208. "Marvin Gaye Here, My Dear". snopes.com. September 16, 1994. Retrieved November 28, 2012. Ritz 1991, p. 265. Ritz 1991, p. 267. Gates 2004, p. 333. Ritz 1991, p. 266-267. Ritz 1991, p. 270-275. Ritz 1991, p. 279. Ritz 1991, p. 280. Ritz 1991, pp. 280–281. Ritz 1991, p. 281. Ritz 1991, p. 282. Gaye 2003, p. 320. Ritz 1991, p. 283. Ritz 1991, p. 284. Jet 1982, p. 59. "What's on in Ostend". Retrieved November 16, 2010. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 373. CN 5585. Batchelor 2005, pp. 41–43. Ebony 1985, p. 102.
DeathMain article: Death of Marvin Gaye
At around 11:38 am (PST) on April 1, 1984, as Marvin was seated on his bed talking to his mother, Gaye's father shot Marvin twice. The first shot, which entered the right side of Gaye's chest, was fatal, having perforated his vital organs. Gaye was taken to the emergency room of the California Hospital Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival at 1:01 pm (PST). Gaye died a day before turning 45. The gun with which Marvin Gay, Sr. shot his son, had been given to him by Gaye, as a Christmas present, to keep Marvin safe from intruders.
Following his funeral, Marvin was cremated with part of his ashes spread near the Pacific Ocean. Gaye did not leave behind a will or an insurance policy at the time of his death. Gaye's father pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge and was sentenced to probation. He later died of pneumonia in 1998. Marvin's fans have held vigils for the singer at the final residence to celebrate the day of his birth.Ritz 1991, p. 334. "Marvin Gaye's father and killer dies". news.bbc.co.uk. October 25, 1998. Retrieved October 27, 2008. Otfinoski 2010, p. 81. Jet 1984a, p. 57. "Dial Them for Murder". Los Angeles Magazine. January 1998. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
Personal lifeMain article: Personal life of Marvin Gaye
Marvin was the father of three children, Marvin III, Nona and Frankie, and the grandfather of three boys, Marvin IV, Nolan and Dylan. At the time of his death, he was survived by his three children, parents and five siblings.Brozan, Nadine (April 1, 1995). "Chronicle: New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2008. "Marvin Gaye III's Financial Trouble". Mycolumbusmagic.com. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
ContentsMusicianship1.1 Influences1.2 Vocal range1.3 Social commentary and concept albums
Growing up, as a child, Gaye's main influence was that of his minister father, something he would later acknowledge to biographer David Ritz and also in interviews he gave, often mentioning that his father's sermons left a big impression on him. His first major musical influences came in the form of doo-wop groups such as The Moonglows and The Capris. Gaye's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame page lists the Capris' song, "God Only Knows" as "critical to his musical awakening". Of the Capris' song, Gaye said "It fell from the heavens and hit me between the eyes. So much soul, so much hurt. I related to the story, to the way that no one except the Lord really can read the heart of lonely kids in love." Gaye's main musical influences were Rudy West of The Five Keys, Clyde McPhatter, Ray Charles and Little Willie John. Gaye considered Frank Sinatra to be a real major influence in what he wanted to be. He also was influenced by the vocal styles of Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole.
Later on as his Motown career developed, Gaye would seek inspiration in fellow label mates such as David Ruffin of The Temptations and Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops as their grittier voices led to Gaye and his producer seeking a similar sound in recordings such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "That's the Way Love Is". Later in his life, Gaye reflected on the influence of Ruffin and Stubbs stating, "I had heard something in their voices something my own voice lacked". He further explained, "the Tempts and Tops' music made me remember that when a lot of women listen to music, they want to feel the power of a real man."
Gaye encompassed a three-octave vocal range. From his earlier recordings as member of the Marquees and Harvey and the New Moonglows and in his first several recordings with Motown, Gaye recorded mainly in the baritone and tenor ranges. Gaye changed his range to a rasp for his gospel-inspired early hits such as "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and "Hitch Hike". As writer Eddie Holland explained: "He was the only singer I have ever heard known to take a song of that nature, that was so far removed from his natural voice where he liked singing, and do whatever it took to sell that song." In songs such as "Pride & Joy", Gaye used three different vocal ranges for the song, singing in his baritone range at the beginning, bringing a lighter tenor in the verses before reaching a gospel mode in the chorus. Holland further stated of Gaye's voice that it was "one of the sweetest and prettiest voices you ever wanted to hear." And while he noted that ballads and jazz was "his basic soul", he stated Gaye "had the ability to take a roughhouse, rock and roll, blues, R&B, any kind of song and make it his own", later citing that Gaye was the most versatile vocalist he ever worked with.
Gaye's vocal style changed in the late 1960s in which he was told to incorporate a sharper raspy voice especially in Norman Whitfield's recordings, which Gaye initially profoundly disliked, considered it out of his range, but said he was "into being produce-able". After listening to David Ruffin and Levi Stubbs, Gaye said he started to develop what he called his "tough man voice" stating "I developed a growl". According to the liner notes of his DVD set, Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981, Rob Bowman stated that by the early 1970s, Gaye had essentially developed "three distinct voices; his smooth, sweet tenor, a growling rasp and an unreal falsetto". Bowman further wrote that the recording of the "What's Going On" single was "the first single to utilize all three as Marvin developed a radical approach to constructing his recordings by layering a series of contrapuntal background vocal lines on different tracks, each one conceived and sung in isolation by Marvin himself." Bowman cites Gaye's multi-tracking of his tenor voice and other vocal styles "summon[ed] up what might be termed the ancient art of weaving".
Social commentary and concept albums
Prior to recording the What's Going On album, Gaye recorded a cover of the song, "Abraham, Martin & John", which became a UK hit in 1970. Only a handful of artists of various genres had recorded albums that focused on social commentary, including Curtis Mayfield. Despite some politically conscious material recorded by The Temptations in the late 1960s, Motown artists were often told to not delve into political and social commentary, fearing alienation from pop audiences. Early in his career, Gaye was affected by social events such as the Watts riots and once asked himself, "with the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?" When the singer called Gordy in the Bahamas about wanting to do protest music, Gordy cautioned him, "Marvin, don't be ridiculous. That's taking things too far."
Once Gaye presented Gordy with the What's Going On album, Gordy feared Gaye was risking the ruination of his image as a sex symbol. Following the album's success, Gaye tried a follow-up album that he would label You're the Man. The title track only produced modest success, however, and Gaye and Motown shelved the album. Later on, several of Gaye's unreleased songs of social commentary, including "The World Is Rated X", would be issued on posthumous compilation albums. What's Going On would later be described by an AllMusic writer as an album that "not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also expanded its impact as an agent for social change".
The album also provided another first in both Motown and R&B music: Gaye and his engineers had composed the album in a song cycle, segueing previous songs into other songs giving the album a more cohesive feel as opposed to R&B albums that traditionally included filler tracks to complete the album. This style of music would influence recordings by artists such as Stevie Wonder and Barry White making the concept album format a part of 1970s R&B music. Concept albums are usually based on either one theme or a series of themes in connection to the original thesis of the album's concept. Let's Get It On repeated the suite-form arrangement of What's Going On, as would Gaye's later albums such as I Want You, Here, My Dear and In Our Lifetime."Marvin Gaye Biography". The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved July 5, 2012. Ritz 1991, p. 27. Bowman, Rob (April 2006). "Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing". Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981: 5. Ritz 1991, p. 29. Ritz 1991, p. 30. Bowman, Rob (April 2006). "Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing". Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981: 14. Ritz 1991, p. 100. Ritz 1991, p. 82. Bowman, Rob (April 2006). "Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing". Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981: 8. Bowman, Rob (April 2006). "Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing". Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981: 9. Bowman, Rob (April 2006). "Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing". Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981: 15. Lynskey 2011, p. 156. Lynskey 2011, p. 157. Cite error: The named reference ReferenceC was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Allmusic (((Marvin Gaye – Overview)))". Retrieved January 9, 2009.
ContentsLegacy1.1 Awards and honors1.2 Use of his music and documentaries1.3 Earnings1.4 Film biopic1.5 Tributes
Marvin Gaye has been called "the number-one purveyor of soul music". In his book, Mercy Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye, Michael Eric Dyson described Gaye as someone "who transcended the boundaries of rhythm and blues as no other performer had done before". His recordings for Motown in the 1960s and 1970s shaped that label's signature sound. His work with Motown gave him the titles "Prince of Soul" and "Prince of Motown". Critics stated that Gaye's music "signified the development of black music from raw rhythm and blues, through sophisticated soul to the political awareness of the 1970s and increased concentration on personal and sexual politics thereafter." As a Motown artist, Gaye was among the first to break from the reins of its production system, paving the way for Stevie Wonder. Gaye's late 1970s and early 1980s recordings influenced contemporary forms of R&B predating the subgenres quiet storm and neo-soul.
Artists from many genres have covered Gaye's music, including James Taylor, Brian McKnight, Chico DeBarge, Michael McDonald, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Aaliyah, A Perfect Circle, The Strokes and Gil Scott-Heron. Other artists such as D'Angelo, Common, Nas and Maxwell interpolated parts of Gaye's clothing from the singer's mid-1970s period. Gaye's clothing style was later was appropriated by Eddie Murphy in his role as James "Thunder" Early in Dreamgirls. Gaye's military-styled clothing attire in his final tour was picked up by Michael Jackson. According to David Ritz, "since 1983 Marvin's name has been mentioned – in reverential tones – on no less than seven top-ten hit records." Later performers such as Kanye West and Mary J. Blige sampled Gaye's work for their recordings.
Awards and honors
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 1987, declaring that Gaye "made a huge contribution to soul music in general and the Motown Sound in particular." The page stated that Gaye "possessed a classic R&B voice that was edged with grit yet tempered with sweetness". The page further states that Gaye "projected an air of soulful authority driven by fervid conviction and heartbroken vulnerability" throughout his career. A year after his death, then-mayor of D.C., Marion Barry declared April 2 as "Marvin Gaye Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund Day" in the city. Since then, a non-profit organization has helped to organize annual Marvin Gaye Day Celebrations in the city of Washington. A year later, Gaye's mother founded the Marvin P. Gaye Jr. Memorial Foundation in dedication to her son to help those suffering from drug abuse and alcoholism; however she died a day before the memorial was set to open in 1987. Gaye's sister Jeanne once served as the foundation's chairperson. In 1990, Gaye received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1996, Gaye posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed three Gaye recordings, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "What's Going On" and "Sexual Healing", among its list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Gaye number 18 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" and sixth on their list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time". magazine ranked Gaye sixth on their list of the "100 Greatest Singers".
Three of Gaye's albums, What's Going On, Let's Get It On and Here, My Dear, were ranked by Rolling Stone on their list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". What's Going On remains his largest-ranked album, reaching No. 6 on the Rolling Stone list and topped the NME list of the "Top 100 Albums of All Time" in 1985 and was later chosen in 2003 for inclusion by the Library of Congress to its National Recording Registry. In addition, four of his songs, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "What's Going On", "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing" made it on the Rolling Stone list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
In 2006, an old park that Gaye frequented as a teenager called Watts Branch Park in Washington was renamed Marvin Gaye Park. Three years later, the 5200 block of Foote Street NE in Deanwood, Washington, DC, was renamed Marvin Gaye Way. In August 2014, Gaye was inducted to the official Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in its second class.
Use of his music and documentaries
His 1983 NBA All-Star performance of the national anthem was used in a Nike commercial featuring the 2008 US Olympic basketball team. Also, on CBS Sports' final NBA telecast to date (before the contract moved to NBC) at the conclusion of Game 5 of the 1990 Finals, they used Gaye's 1983 All-Star Game performance over the closing credits. When VH1 launched on January 1, 1985, Gaye's 1983 rendition of the national anthem was the very first video to be aired. Most recently, it was used in the intro to Ken Burns' Tenth Inning documentary on the game of baseball.
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was played in a Levi's ad in 1985. The result of the commercial's success led to the original song finding renewed success in Europe after Tamla-Motown re-released it in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. In 1986, the song was covered by Buddy Miles as part of a California Raisins ad campaign. The song was later used for chewing gum commercials in Finland and to promote a brand of Lucky Strike cigarettes in Germany.
Gaye's music has also been used in numerous film soundtracks including Four Brothers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both of which featured Gaye's music from his Trouble Man soundtrack. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was used in the opening credits of the film, The Big Chill. Gaye's music has also become a source for samples in hip-hop recordings.
In 2007, his song, "A Funky Space Reincarnation", was used in the Charlize Theron-starred ad for Dior J'Adore perfume. A documentary about Gaye – What's Going On: The Marvin Gaye Story – was a UK/PBS co-production, directed by Jeremy Marre and was first broadcast in 2006; two years later, the special re-aired with a different production and newer interviews after it was re-broadcast as an American Masters special. Another documentary, focusing on his 1981 documentary, Transit Ostend, titled Remember Marvin, was seen in 2006.
In 2008, Gaye earned $3.5 million (US$3,833,771 in 2015 dollars), and took 13th place in 'Top-Earning Dead Celebrities' in Forbes Magazine.