Marvin Gaye Brief Biography
Marvin Gaye was the epitome of young, gifted and black. Born on April 2nd, 1939, in Washington, DC, the young Marvin was rebellious - he was regularly beaten by his reverend father, and was discharged from the US Air Force, because he would not conform.
Obviously a free spirit, with a good voice, singing seemed Gaye's natural vocation. Rather than sing with his father's choir, he joined a number of vocal groups, most notably The Marquees, in 1957, which became part of singer/producer Harvey Fuqua's reformed singing group, The Moonglows. Fuqua became a massive leg up to Marvin Gaye's career, especially when Fuqua joined Berry Gordy at Motown, where Gaye began as a session drummer and singer.
In 1961, Gaye was dating Gordy's sister, Anna, whom he later married, and was given a solo recording contract, plus a name change. Originally Marvin Gay, an 'e' was added to the surname. Marvin had his first US top 10 hit in 1962, with 'Stubborn Kind Of Fellow', and a hit the next year with 'Can I Get A Witness'. As well as singing, Gaye was also drumming on some Little Stevie Wonder records, and even co-wrote 'Dancing In The Street' for Martha And The Vandellas.
Marvin Gaye recorded his first classic, 'How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)', in 1965. Using Gaye's smooth persona to good effect, Motown teamed him up with several leading female singers, including Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell. Marvin and Tammi became close friends, though not, apparently, lovers, and had hits with several outstanding songs from 1967 to 1970, including 'Your Precious Love', 'Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing', and 'The Onion Song'.
The uptempo, but soulful, 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', released in 1968, became Gaye's most famous song, and was a number one in both the US and UK. Gaye had also given Tamla Motown their biggest-selling record to date, and the song remains in the top drawer of popular songs. One of Marvin Gaye's most haunting songs, 'Abraham, Martin, And John', was released in 1969, with references to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy. A beautiful recording, and cautious signs that Gaye was beginning to use his music to expose more serious issues.
Though Marvin Gaye's career was going wonderfully well, the death of Tammi Terrell through a brain tumour in March, 1970, devastated Marvin to such an extent that he became a virtual recluse.
The next year saw Gaye change tack and come up with the truly seminal 'What's Going On' album. Not really to Motown's liking, because of its lyrical content, it was a radical album, musically - being a tad experimental - and content-wise, for bringing social and ecological issues into the music mainstream. Gaye became one of the most high profile black artists to speak out against racial inequality, and for basically appealing for simple decency among all races.
From this musical high, Gaye's career became blighted by problems for ten years, with drug, tax, and marriage problems, though he did come up with some gems such as 'Let's Get It On (1973)', 'You Are Everything (1974)', with Diana Ross, and 'Got To Give It Up (1977)'. The 'Sexual Healing' single of 1982 saw an international resurgence in Gaye's career, but drug problems and depression meant he was unable to capitalise on this new-found success.
An argument with his volatile father, Marvin Snr., on April 1st, 1984, resulted in Marvin Gaye being punished by his father for the final time. Marvin Jr. was shot dead a day before his 45th birthday.
Though one of the saddest stories in showbusiness, Marvin Gaye was one of the most influential and talented of all black artists, and he leaves behind a wonderful legacy of both music and humanitarian values. As soul legend Smokey Robinson says of Marvin: "He's alive forever."
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com.