Marvin Pentz Gaye,Jr. was born on April 2nd,1939, the second child of four to Marvin Pentz Gay Sr, an Pentecostal minister and Alberta, a domestic worker and teacher.The home was riddled with domestic abuse due to his more than strict father.
As a way of escaping the hardships of his home life,Marvin joined a local teen-aged group called the Marquees. Due to his church choir vocals and three octave range, the group was discovered by Bo Didley. Later,the group was was turned over to Harvey Fuqua who added them to his group-The Moonglows.
In 1960,Fuqua and Gaye left the Moonglows and headed to Detroit where Fuqua joined forces with Berry Gordy at Motown.Shortly thereafter,Marvin was hired as a session drummer and vocalist. In 1961, Marvin married Berry Gordy’s sister,Anna, 17 years his senior.He immediately was offered a solo contract. Some of his early hits include “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),”,”I’ll Be Doggone”, and “Ain’t That Peculiar”. He soon became Motown’s best-selling male artist which prompted Motown to have him do a series of romantic duets. He started with Mary Wells, Kim Weston and finally and most successfully with Tammi Terrell.
In 1968 he released “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” which became the label’s biggest hit at the time. It first came out as a single by Gladys Knight And The Pips,but he had recorded it earlier..He followed up with “Too Busy Thinking Bout My Baby”
When his vocal partner and very dear friend,Tammi Terrell,whom he loved like a sister,passed away from a brain Tumor in March 1970, Marvin went into a dark depression and seclusion. When he came back with recordings the next year, they were noticeably “deeper” and spiritual dealing with poverty,ecology and other social issues as heard in his hits”What’s Going On”,”Mercy,Mercy Me(The Ecology)”, and “Inner City Blues.
He then went on to record tunes of a more sensual nature such as “Let’s Get It On”.This is when he became more reclusive. He divorced Anna,was in a volatile off again/on again with very young, eventual second wife Janis. His life went into a downward spiral because of drug use and his personal demons.
He had a messy split with Motown in the early 1980’s and left for Columbia records. Despite his erratic behavior and heavy cocaine use, he released the album ‘Midnight Love’ which included the monster hit “Sexual Healing” which brought him back into the spotlight. However, he could not shake his depression and drug use and went to stay with his parents in their Los Angeles home where the volatile and heated relationship with his father resurfaced.
On April 1,1984 after intervening in a violent argument between his parents, Marvin Sr. retrieved the gun his son had bought him months earlier and shot Marvin Jr. to death just one day shy of his 45th birthday, thus ending the career of this talented,albeit troubled musician.
Why I love Marvin Gaye:
You can recognize his voice a mile away. No one else sounds like him. More importantly,no matter what he’s singing-an upbeat love song or one of pain,social issues or sensuality-you can feel it. No other artist takes me with him through his emotions as does Marvin.When he’s happy and hopeful, I am happy and hopeful for him. When he’s singing of desire,I can feel his pangs and I want it for him. When he sings of sorrow,personal or for the world in which we live in,I cry along with him and want to hug him,fix it and make everything better.
I guess you can call it empathy. I feel a certain connection with him that’s hard to explain. The tragedy of the circumstances of his death is just the icing on the cake. I feel for this soul. His feelings,whether good or bad,I’m feeling right along with him. Maybe we’re kindred spirits or I just simply have a soft spot in my heart for him.
God Bless you,Marvin Gaye.