Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye

About Marvin Gaye

Without Marvin Gaye, both R&B as we know it and American pop in general would have sounded rather different. His gifts as a musician, songwriter, and singer helped put the Motown sound on the map. And his innovative, eclectic vision found him continually pushing beyond the borders of R&B. Born in Washington, DC, in 1939, Gaye had a tough childhood before forming the vocal group The Marquees in 1957. They became a backing group for former Moonglows singer Harvey Fuqua, and by 1961 Gaye had moved to Detroit, where he became a session drummer for Motown, playing on milestones like The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” and Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips.” He then began penning songs for Motown artists, co-writing hits like The Marvelettes’ “Beechwood 4-5789” and Martha & The Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street.” When he started making records under his own name for the label, he was a jazz balladeer; it was only when he turned his fluid tenor to R&B on 1962’s “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” that he found success. The mercurial Gaye spent the next few years recording show tunes and a Nat “King” Cole tribute album amid his more soulful sides. He hit his stride with crossover hits like “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and “Ain’t That Peculiar” and a series of Tammi Terrell duets epitomized by “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.” But Gaye began edging toward a more emotionally and musically sophisticated place with 1968’s immortal “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and in 1971 he helped alter the course of soul with the socially conscious, complexly textured What’s Going On. Gaye never stopped innovating—his smoldering, disco-friendly 1977 smash “Got to Give It Up” was a crucial influence on Michael Jackson’s adult career, and the synths and drum machine of 1982’s electro-soul burner “Sexual Healing” once again led R&B someplace new. But his career was cut tragically short when he was shot dead by his father during a fight at the family home on April 1, 1984.

  • HOMETOWN
    Washington, D.C.
  • BORN
    April 2, 1939

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