Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye
Over his immensely successful career as a Motown singer, songwriter, and producer, Marvin Gaye blazed a trail for African-American popular music. Across several prolific decades, Marvin Gaye's music went through a significant transformation from anonymous pop to personally expressive masterpieces.

Born in 1939 in Washington D.C, Marvin Pentz Gay began his musical career singing in local doo wop groups, but it was not long before he was discovered by Motown records and recruited for a solo career. In the 60's, after several hit singles, Gaye recorded a series of duets with female singers, most notably Tammi Terrel. Terrel's death in 1970 profoundly affected Gaye, sending him into a period of self-seclusion that lasted nearly two years.

He resurfaced with the album What's Going On, a masterpiece that explored issues including poverty, politics, drug abuse, discrimination, the Vietnam War, and the environment. When his label refused to release the album, calling it un-commercial, Gaye threatened to never record again, and the label relented. What's Going On reached number two, and this success ensured that not only Gaye but other Motown artists as well were in control of their music.

In his subsequent albums Gaye took advantage of this newfound freedom, releasing much of the pent up emotion that he had been unable to address in his earlier work. 1973's Lets Get it On, one of the most romantically and sexually charged albums ever released, was the most successful effort of Gaye's career.

In the early 80's, Marvin Gaye began to fall victim to drug addiction and a downward spiral into depression that ended tragically when he was killed by his own father in 1984. Marvin Gaye's influence on music was so great that musical tributes were being dedicated to him while he was alive, and after his murder the tributes continued, including Marvin is 60 in 1999, in which the R&B world paid its respects to Gaye. His importance to American music was evidenced by his 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  • During the two year period after Tammi Terrel's death, Gaye tried many diversions to try to lift his spirits, including a short-lived attempt at a football career with the Detroit Lions.

  • For the album Diana & Marvin, Gaye teamed up with Diana Ross. Even in the presence of the pregnant Ross, Gaye refused to refrain from his accustomed habit of smoking joints in the recording studio. Ross complained to the record company, and the album was completed only by recording the two singers on different dates and overdubbing the vocals.

  • In 2001, an all-star cover of What's Going On was produced as a benefit for the worldwide AIDS crisis. The single included contributions from Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Mariah Carey, Destiny's Child, Limp Bizkit, Nelly Furtado, Alicia Keys, StainD, Nas, NSYNC, P. Diddy, The Roots, Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani.

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