Famous Black People

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye Photo

Childhood and Early Life

Marvin Pents Gaye was born in April 1939, in Washington D.C. His father was a minister in the conservative Christian sect, the House of God, where Gaye started his career by singing gospels and hymns in the church choir.

After finishing high school, Gaye joined the Air Force but after being discharged, he started performing with a local group “the Moonglows” in 1958. He also learned to play the piano and drums. It was here that Berry Gordy Jr. of Motown Records saw him perform in a concert in Detroit and offered him a contract in 1961.

Beginning of a Singing Career

In Motown, Gaye played as a session drummer, with bands like The Miracles, The Contours and Martha and the Vandellas. He came out with his first solo album in 1961 – “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide” – followed by his next album, “The Soulful Mood of Marvin Gaye”. However, both did not do well or gain much popularity.

In spite of his initial two albums that failed to get him established as a singer, Gaye continued to work hard and release several songs of which “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” reached the top 50 in 1962. His other songs “Hitch Hike” and “Can I Get a Witness” too made it to top 30. Finally, Gaye got his first smash hit, “Pride and Joy”, in 1963 that made it to the top 10.

By 1965, he had released thirty nine Top 40 songs with Motown, but was not happy with the label’s tight control of the material and decided to change the record company.

Becoming a Successful Artist

Gaye gave his greatest hit with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” in 1968. It was also around this time when his marriage was falling apart and he was not happy singing about love. He decided to make the change after he had released singles “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” and “That’s The Way Love Is.”

In 1971, he released his most memorable solo album “What’s Going On,” that focused on topics like discrimination, poverty and drug abuse. In 1973, Gaye released a sexually and romantically charged album “Let’s Get It On.” Soon after its release, his marriage ended. He released an album about his failed marriage in 1978, “Here, My Dear,” and almost got himself into litigation for violation of privacy.

Gaye had another failed marriage to a 17-year old girl, Janis Hunter, whom he divorced in 1979. He shifted to Hawaii and then to Europe in 1981. While staying in Europe, he released “Midnight Love,” with Columbia Records, that contained one of his most famous songs “Sexual Healing.” He was also battling cocaine addiction at the time that worsened to such an extent that he was forced to live with his parents, further slipping into depression due to the issues and problems with his father.

He was shot and killed by his father in April 1984, after a heated argument. His father claimed that he used the gun in self-defense. Gaye was cremated and his ashes were released in the Pacific Ocean.

Gaye’s influence on R&B and soul music was appreciated when he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He also earned a Grammy Award for “Sexual Healing” that topped the charts not only in US but also in Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

Gaye was a great singer but things went wrong somewhere and this great talent got destroyed with cocaine addiction. He added “e” to his name to imitate Sam Cooke and made a great name for himself in singing but fell short of becoming a legend due to his untimely death.

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