Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye, (April 2, 1939 ??? April 1, 1984) was an American singer-songwriter and instrumentalist with a three-octave vocal range. Starting as a member of the doo-wop group The Moonglows in the late fifties, he ventured into a solo career after the group disbanded in 1960 signing with the Tamla subsidiary of Motown Records. After starting off as a session drummer, Gaye ranked as the label's top-selling solo artist during the sixties.
Due to solo hits including "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)", "Ain't That Peculiar", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and his duet singles with singers such as Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, he was crowned "The Prince of Motown" and "The Prince of Soul".
Notable for fighting the hit-making but restrictive Motown process in which performers and songwriters and producers were kept separate, Gaye proved with albums like his 1971 What's Going On and his 1973 Let's Get It On that he was able to produce music without relying on the system, inspiring fellow Motown artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to do the same.
His mid-1970s work including the Let's Get It On and I Want You albums helped influence the quiet storm, urban adult contemporary and slow jam genres. After a self-imposed European exile in the late seventies, Gaye returned on the 1982 Grammy-winning hit, "Sexual Healing" and the Midnight Love album before his death. Gaye was shot dead by his father on April 1, 1984. He was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
In 2008, the American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Gaye #6 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time, and ranked #18 on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. was born at 12 p.m. on April 2, 1939 at Freedman's Hospital in Washington, D.C.. His father, Marvin Gay, Sr. of Kentucky, was a minister at the House of God. It advocated strict conduct and mixed teachings of Orthodox Judaism and Pentecostalism. His mother, Alberta Cooper, of North Carolina, was a domestic and schoolteacher.
The eldest son of Gay Sr.'s children, Marvin has a half brother, Michael Cooper (b. 1935) and an older sister Jeanne (b. 1937), younger brother Frankie (1942-2001), and sister Zeola "Sweetsie" (b. 1945). Marvin's parents raised their children at the southeast section of D.C. at the Simple City projects and, after Marvin turned 14, lived in the segregated section of Washington, D.C.'s Deanwood neighborhood in the northeastern section of the city. As a teen, he caddied at Norbeck Country Club in Olney, Maryland.
As a child in his father's church, Gaye sang and played instruments in the choir. During his high school years, he listened to doo-wop and joined the DC Tones as a drummer, which rejected him for his color, as well as singing in a group called The Dippers with Johnny Stewart his best friend. After dropping out of 11th grade at Cardozo High School, Gaye joined the United States Air Force in hopes of becoming an aviator. After faking mental illness, he was discharged. His sergeant stated that Gaye refused to follow orders.
The Moonglows and work as sideman drummer in Motown
Main article: The Moonglows
Returning to D.C., Gaye rejoined his childhood friend Reese Palmer who had formed The Marquees and Bo Diddley signed them to Okeh Records, which was a subsidiary of Chess Records, where they recorded "Wyatt Earp", with "Hey Little Schoolgirl" as its B-side. It received moderate success. Harvey Fuqua, of the R&B/doo-wop group The Moonglows, recruited them, after the break up of the original members to be The New Moonglows. Gaye and the group sung background on records by Chuck Berry and Etta James and had a modest hit with "The Twelve Months of the Year". "Mama Loochie" (1959) was Gaye's first lead single.
After the Moonglows disbanded in 1960, Fuqua brought Gaye to Detroit and he was signed to the local Anna Records label, founded by Gwen Gordy. After Motown Records' Berry Gordy absorbed Anna, Gaye was moved to Motown's Tamla subsidiary. Upon signing to Tamla, Gaye found out that Fuqua had sold 50% percent of his stake in the singer to the label. Gaye worked as a session drummer for The Miracles, The Contours, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes and others, notably on The Marvelettes' 1961 hit, "Please Mr. Postman" and Little Stevie Wonder's live version of 1963 hit, "Fingertips Pt. 2". Both singles reached number one of the pop singles chart.
After signing with Motown as a solo artist in 1961, Gaye changed his name from Marvin Gay to Marvin Gaye, later stating he added the 'e' because it "sounded more professional". His author and best friend David Ritz insisted Gaye added the 'e' to separate himself from his father, and to imitate R&B singer Sam Cooke, who also added an 'e' to his name. Gaye and Berry clashed over music to record. Through help from Gaye's girlfriend, Gordy's sister Anna, Berry allowed him to record a standard album.
Early success: 1962 - 1966
Motown started Artist Development to look after artists. Gaye rebelled against receiving the same tuition as his Motown peers, though he'd later regretted that decision. Eventually he stopped "grooming school" though he took its director Maxine Powell's advice to not perform with his eyes closed as if "to appear that he wasn't asleep".
In June 1961, Gaye issued his first solo recording, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, the second album by Motown. The record featured Broadway standards and jazz-rendered show tunes, and also yielded the R&B ballad single, "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide". The record failed. Gaye released two more failed singles, a cover of The Chordettes' "Sandman" and "Soldier's Plea" in 1962. Gaye would find his first success as a co-songwriter on the Marvelettes' 1962 hit, "Beechwood 4-5789".
Gaye scored his first hit single "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" in September. The song, co-written by Gaye, was an autobiographical pun on his nonchalant, moody behavior. Produced by William "Mickey" Stevenson, the recording became a hit on the Hot R&B Songs chart.
The single would be followed by his first Top 40 singles "Hitch Hike", "Pride and Joy" and "Can I Get a Witness", which charted for Gaye in 1963. The success continued with the 1964 singles "You Are a Wonderful One", "Try It Baby", "Baby Don't You Do It" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)", which became his first signature song.
Gaye contributed to writing and playing drums on the 1964 hit by Martha and the Vandellas, "Dancing in the Street". His work with Smokey Robinson on the 1966 album, Moods of Marvin Gaye, spawned consecutive top ten singles in "I'll Be Doggone" and "Ain't That Peculiar". Due to this success and the singer's well-crafted image, Gaye became a favorite on the teen shows American Bandstand, Shindig!, Hullaballoo and The T.A.M.I. Show. In August 1966, he became just the second Motown act to successfully perform at the Copacabana, though due to label friction, a live album cut from the performances set to be released in 1967 was shelved for nearly 40 years.
A screenshot of a 1967 performance by Gaye and Terrell during taping of the Mike Douglas Show.
Tammi Terrell and I Heard It Through the Grapevine: 1967-1970
Main articles: Tammi Terrell and I Heard It Through the Grapevine
A number of Gaye's hits for Motown were with female artists such as Kim Weston and Mary Wells; the first Gaye/Wells album, 1964's Together, was Gaye's first charting album. However, it was Gaye's work with Tammi Terrell that became the most memorable. Terrell and Gaye were a good standing duet at the time and their first album, 1967's United, birthed the hits "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Your Precious Love".
Real-life couple Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson provided the writing and production for the Gaye/Terrell records. While Gaye and Terrell were not lovers ??? though rumors persist ??? they portrayed lovers on record. Gaye claimed that for the songs he was in love with her. On October 14, 1967, while in concert at the homecoming for Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia, outside the college town of Farmville, Tammi Terrell collapsed in Gaye's arms. She was rushed to Southside Community Hospital, where she was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Contrary to popular belief, the concert was not at Hampton University. The chairperson of the event recounted the events on WFLO FM radio in Farmville in April 2007 for the anniversary of Marvin's passing.
Motown decided to carry on with Gaye/Terrell recordings, issuing the You're All I Need album in 1968, which featured "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By". By the final album, Easy in 1969, Terrell's vocals were mostly by Valerie Simpson. Two tracks on Easy were archived Terrell solo songs with Gaye's vocals overdubbed.
Terrell's illness put Gaye in a depression; he refused to acknowledge the success of his song "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (?·)), released in 1967 by Gladys Knight & The Pips (his was recorded before, but released after theirs), his first #1 hit and the biggest selling single in Motown history to that point, with four million copies sold. His work with producer Norman Whitfield, who produced "Grapevine", resulted in similar success with the singles "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and "That's the Way Love Is". Meanwhile, Gaye's marriage was crumbling and he was bored with his music. Wanting creative control, he sought to produce singles for Motown session band The Originals, whose Gaye-produced hits, "Baby I'm For Real" and "The Bells", brought success.
What's Going On: 1970-1972
Main article: What's Going On
Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor on March 16, 1970. Gaye was so emotional at her funeral that he talked to her lying in state as if she were going to respond. He went into seclusion and did not perform in concert for nearly two years. Gaye told friends he had thought of quitting music, at one point trying out for the American football team the Detroit Lions (where he met acquaintances Mel Farr and Lem Barney), but after the success of his productions with the Originals, Gaye entered the studio on June 1, 1970 and recorded "What's Going On", "God Is Love", and "Sad Tomorrows" - an early version of "Flying High (In The Friendly Sky)". Gaye wanted to release "What's Going On", Gordy refused, calling the single "the worst record I ever heard". Gaye threatened to leave Motown unless the record was released. Gordy eventually relented and the song was released with little publicity in January 1971. Despite no backing from Motown, the single became a hit, peaking at number-one on the Billboard R&B charts for five weeks. It is also rated the fourth best song of all time by Rolling Stone. After the single's success, Gordy requested an entire album of similar tracks.
Gaye performing live at the Oakland Coliseum during his 1973-1974 tour
The What's Going On album became one of the highlights of Gaye's career and is his best-known work. Both in terms of its funk and jazz-influenced sound and personal lyrical content, it was a departure from his earlier Motown work. Two more of its singles, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)", became Top 10 pop hits and #1 R&B hits. The album became one of the most memorable soul albums and, based upon its themes, the concept album became the frontier for soul music. It has been called "the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices".
Let's Get It On and continued success in music: 1972-1977
Main articles: Let's Get It On and I Want You (album)
After the release of What's Going On, Motown renegotiated a contract with Gaye that allowed him creative control. The deal was worth $1 million, making Gaye the highest-earning black artist. He moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972 after being offered a chance to write the score to a blaxploitation film. Writing, arranging and producing the movie Trouble Man, Gaye issued the soundtrack and title song in 1972. The soundtrack and single became hits, the single peaking at the top ten in early 1973.
Gaye decided to switch from social to sensual with Let's Get It On in 1973. The album was a departure for its sensual appeal. Yielded by the title track (?·)) and tracks such as "Come Get to This", "You Sure Love to Ball", and "Distant Lover", Let's Get It On became Gaye's biggest selling album during his lifetime, surpassing What's Going On. Also, with the title track, Gaye broke his own record at Motown by surpassing the sales of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine". The album would be hailed "a record unparalleled in its sheer sensuality and carnal energy."
Gaye began working on his final duet album, this time with Diana Ross for the Diana & Marvin project, an album of duets that began recording in 1972, while Ross was pregnant with her second child, Tracee Ellis Ross. Gaye refused to sing if he couldn't smoke in the studio, so the album was recorded by overdubbing Ross and Gaye at separate sessions. Released in fall 1973, the album yielded the US Top 20 hit singles "You're a Special Part of Me and "My Mistake (Was to Love You)" as well as the UK versions of The Stylistics's "You Are Everything" at #5 and "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" at #25, respectively.
In 1976, Gaye released the I Want You LP, which yielded the title track as the number-one R&B single, and the modest charter, "After the Dance." Album tracks such as "Since I Had You" and "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" geared Gaye towards more funky material. The following year, Gaye released the funk single, "Got to Give It Up, Pt. 1", which became a simultaneous number-one US hit. The single was featured on his Live at the London Palladium album, which partially helped in the album selling over two million copies, becoming one of the top-selling albums of that year.
Here, My Dear and his final days at Motown: 1978-1981
Main article: Here, My Dear
Gaye performs at the London Palladium in 1977
The following year, shortly after divorcing his wife, Anna, he agreed to remit a portion of his salary and sales of his upcoming album as alimony. The result was 1978's Here, My Dear, which addressed the sour points of his marriage and almost led to Anna filing a lawsuit for invasion of privacy. That album went nowhere and Gaye struggled. By 1979, besieged by tax problems and drug addictions, Gaye filed for bankruptcy and moved to Hawaii, where he lived in a bread van and began working on his follow-up to Here, My Dear, titled In Our Lifetime?.
In 1980, he signed with British promoter Jeffrey Kruger to headline a European tour with stops at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and performances in Amsterdam and England. While in London, Gaye was to headline a Command Performance at the Royal Gala Charity Show for Princess Margaret but the singer showed up seven hours late with Princess Margaret leaving halfway through the concert. While in London, he continued work on Lifetime with a rough draft completed by the fall of the year. When Motown issued the album in January 1981, Gaye accused Motown of editing and remixing the album without his consent, releasing an unfinished song ("Far Cry"), altering the album art he requested and removing the question mark from the title, muting its irony. Afterwards, Gaye vowed never to record another project for Motown Records.
Comeback and sudden death: 1982-1984
Main articles: Midnight Love, Sexual Healing, and Death of Marvin Gaye
On the advice of Belgian concert promoter Freddy Cousaert, Gaye moved to Ostend, Belgium, in early 1981 where he enjoyed a brief period of sobriety from drug abuse. Still upset over Motown's decision to release In Our Lifetime, he negotiated a release from the label and signed with Columbia Records in 1982, releasing the Midnight Love album late that year. The album included "Sexual Healing" (?·)), which was Gaye's last hit. He wrote it during his 2 month stay in the village Moere, near Ostend. Gaye's friend and lawyer Curtis Shaw calls this Moere-period "the best thing that ever happened to Marvin". The video clip of "Sexual Healing" is recorded in the Casino-Kursaal in Ostend.
The single reached number one on Billboard's R&B chart, where it stayed for ten weeks, later crossing to number three on Billboard's Hot 100. The single sold two million copies in the U.S. earning a platinum certification. The song also gave Gaye his first two Grammy Awards (Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, Best R&B Instrumental) in February 1983. It was nominated for Best R&B Song but lost to George Benson's "Turn Your Love Around".
The following year, he was nominated for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance again, this time for the Midnight Love album. In February 1983, Gaye performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the NBA All-Star Game, held at The Forum in Inglewood, California, accompanied by a drum machine. In March 1983, he gave his final performance in front of his old mentor Berry Gordy and the Motown label for Motown 25, performing "What's Going On". He then embarked on a U.S. tour to support his album. The tour, ending in August 1983, was plagued by health problems and Gaye's bouts with depression, and fear over an attempt on his life.
When the tour ended, he isolated himself by moving into his parents' house. He threatened to commit suicide several times after bitter arguments with his father. On April 1, 1984, Gaye's father fatally shot him after an argument that started after his parents squabbled over misplaced business documents. Gaye attempted to intervene, and was killed by his father using a gun that Marvin Jr. had given him four months before. Marvin Gaye would have turned 45 the next day. Marvin Sr. was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Charges of first-degree murder were dropped after doctors discovered Marvin Sr. had a brain tumor. Spending his final years in a retirement home, he died of pneumonia in 1998. In 1987, Gaye was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also inducted to Hollywood's Rock Walk in 1989 and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.
Gaye and second wife Janis
Gaye married twice. His first marriage was to Berry Gordy, Jr.'s sister, Anna Gordy, who was 17 years his senior. The marriage imploded after Marvin was courting the teenage daughter of Slim Gaillard, Janis Hunter, in 1973. Anna filed for divorce in 1975; the divorce was finalized in March 1977. Gaye's erotic and disco-tinged studio album I Want You was based on his relationship with Hunter. In his book Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves, and Demons of Marvin Gaye, author and music writer Michael Eric Dyson elaborated on the relationship between I Want You and the relationship Gaye had with Hunter, which influenced his music:
I Want You is unmistakably a work of romantic and erotic tribute to the woman he deeply loved and would marry shortly, Janis Hunter (Janis Gaye). Gaye's obsession with the woman in her late teens is nearly palpable in the sensual textures that are the album's aural and lyrical signature. Their relationship was relentlessly passionate and emotionally rough-hewn; they played up each other's strengths, and played off each other's weaknesses.
???Michael Eric Dyson
In October 1977, he married Janis, who was 17 years old when they met. However, the marriage dissolved within a year. After attempts at reconciliation, Janis filed for divorce in 1979. The divorce was finalized in February 1981. During this time, Marvin began dating a model from the Netherlands named Eugenie Vis. In 1982 Gaye became involved with Lady Edith Foxwell, former wife of the British movie director Ivan Foxwell, and spent time with her at Sherston, her Wiltshire estate. Foxwell ran the fashionable Embassy Club and was referred to in the media as "the queen of London cafe society." The story of their affair was told by Stan Hey in the April 2004 issue of GQ. The report quoted writer/composer Bernard J. Taylor as saying he was told by Foxwell that she and Gaye had discussed marriage.
Gaye had three children. Marvin Pentz Gaye, III (b. 1965) was adopted by Marvin and his first wife Anna. The singer disclosed this in David Ritz's biography on Gaye, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, saying he was afraid of being criticized for not producing a child. Later, Gaye had two children with Janis Hunter, Nona Marvisa, nicknamed "Pie" by her dad (born September 4, 1974) and Frankie "Bubby" Christan Gaye (born November 16, 1975). Gaye introduced his daughter to a national audience during a show in 1975. Nona would do the same eight years later when her father was given a tribute by Soul Train. Nona has gone on to find success as a singer and actress. Gaye's eldest son was a music producer. Frankie is said to have taken work as an artist. Gaye also has two grandchildren: Marvin Pentz Gaye IV (b. 1995), born on the anniversary of his grandfather's death; and Nolan Pentz Gaye (b. 1997).
Marvin Gaye's musical style changed in various ways throughout his 26-year career. Upon his early recordings as member of The Marquees and Harvey & the New Moonglows in the late 1950s, Marvin recorded in a doo-wop vocal style. After signing his first solo recording contract with Motown, Marvin prompted staff members he wanted to record an adult album of standards and jazz covers. His first album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, conveyed those genres including several doo-wop and blues songs.
The Motown Sound and psychedelic soul
Starting with his first charted hit, 1962's "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" through 1967's "Your Unchanging Love", Marvin's music featured a blend of black rhythm and blues and white pop music that came to be later identified as the "Motown Sound". Marvin's 1962-1964 hits reflected a dance-pop/rock 'n' roll approach while his 1965-1969 recordings reflected a pop-soul style. Backed by Motown's in-house band The Funk Brothers, pre-1970 Marvin Gaye recordings were built around songs with simple, direct lyrics supported by an R&B rhythm section with orchestral strings and horns added for pop appeal. Marvin's early hits were conceived by Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Mickey Stevenson and Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Marvin's sound started to change slightly in 1967 after he began working with producers Norman Whitfield, Ashford & Simpson and Frank Wilson. Whereas Marvin's early sound reflected a youthful exterior, later songs during that period including "You", "Chained", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and "That's the Way Love Is" were all recorded under the psychedelic soul sound of the late sixties and early seventies. "Psychedelic soul" mixed guitar-driven rock with soul-based grooves. Marvin's vocal style also changed during that period where he began singing in a gospel texture that had been only hinted in previous recordings.
Social commentary and conceptual albums
In 1971, Marvin issued his landmark album, What's Going On. The album and its tracks were responsible in the changing landscape of rhythm and blues music as the album presented a full view of social ills in America, including war, police brutality, racism, drug addiction, environmentalism, and urban decay. Beforehand, recordings of social unrest had been recorded by the likes of (Curtis Mayfield &) The Impressions, The Temptations, Sam Cooke, Sly & the Family Stone and James Brown, but this was the first album fully devoted to those issues. The album was produced under what is called a song cycle and because of its theme of "what's going on" was considered one of the first concept albums to be released in soul music. Marvin's 1972 soundtrack Trouble Man, based on the blaxploitation film of the same name, mainly featured instrumentals with a few vocal runs, including songs with social commentary. Marvin's 1972 recordings outside that album???including "Where Are We Going", "Piece of Clay", "You're the Man" and "The World Is Rated X" -- also raised social issues and was personal in nature. The songs were to be included in the unreleased 1972 album, You're the Man, which was canceled after the modest reception of the title single. Marvin issued his next "concept album" with 1973's Let's Get It On, based on the spiritual and erotic side of love and sex. Marvin released a similarly themed funk album in 1976, I Want You, before switching to personal issues with the albums Here, My Dear (1978) and In Our Lifetime (1981). The former album focused on Marvin's problems in his first marriage, while the latter focused on his own life struggles. Marvin's albums between 1971 and 1981 reflected a period where, as an Allmusic writer said, his music "not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also expanded its impact as an agent for social change".
From funk to disco to contemporary R&B
Starting in the mid-seventies, Marvin's sound began to reflect the emerging sounds of funk and the later disco movement of the late 1970s before settling into a modern contemporary R&B sound as the eighties approached. Marvin's double-sided 1976 single, "I Want You/After the Dance" and his 1977 hit, "Got to Give It Up" were his only successful attempts at recording disco-styled dance music whereas the 1978 single "A Funky Space Reincarnation", 1979's "Ego Tripping Out" and the 1981 singles "Praise" and "Heavy Love Affair" aimed at the funk-based urban audience. By itself, "I Want You", mixed funk with disco, soul and lite rock elements. With the release of 1982's triple-platinum Midnight Love and the massive platinum selling smash hit, "Sexual Healing", Marvin mixed the styles of funk and post disco with Caribbean and European-flavored pop music creating a mix that influenced the modern R&B sound. "Sexual Healing" was the biggest R&B hit of the 1980s - #1 for 10 consecutive weeks. Some of Marvin's posthumous releases have been varied in nature: 1985's Dream of a Lifetime was produced mostly in a electro funk sound mostly in the first half of the album, while his posthumous "featuring" on rapper Erick Sermon's 2001 hit, "Music" brought him to a younger hip-hop audience.
Legacy and influence
According to several historians, Marvin Gaye's career "spanned the entire history of rhythm and blues from fifties doo-wop to eighties contemporary soul." Critics stated that Gaye's music "signified the development of black music from raw rhythm and blues, through sophisticated soul to the political awareness of the 1970s and increased concentration on personal and sexual politics thereafter." Marvin's usage of multi-tracked vocalizing, recording songs of social, political and sexual issues, and producing albums of autobiographical nature have influenced a generation of recording artists of various genres. As an artist who broke away from the controlled atmosphere of Motown Records in the 1970s, he influenced the careers of label mates such as Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers and, later in Epic Records, Michael Jackson to gain creative control and produced/co-produced their own albums. The careers of later R&B stars such as Rick James, Prince, R. Kelly, Janet Jackson, Lustevie, George Michael, Justin Timberlake, Usher and J. Holiday also were influenced by the music of Marvin Gaye. Marvin's erotically concept albums such as Let's Get It On and I Want You inspired similar albums released by Smokey Robinson, Barry White and his co-producer on I Want You, Leon Ware. Modern-day artists such as Teena Marie and Mary J. Blige have also referenced Marvin in their own songs. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him #18 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Tributes and covers
In 1983, Spandau Ballet recorded the single "True" as a tribute to Marvin and the Motown sound he helped established. That same year, electro-funk group R. J.'s Latest Arrival mentioned him with their dance hit, "Shackles on My Feet". DeBarge's 1983 hit, "All This Love" was musically influenced by Marvin's sound and was rumored that they had wanted Marvin to record the song himself. However, Marvin had left the label before they could approach him.
On April 2, 1984, the day after Marvin's death, Duran Duran dedicated their live performance of "Save a Prayer" from their Arena album to him. Tribute songs to the singer included Diana Ross' "Missing You" and The Commodores' "Nightshift" became hits with each song reaching number-one on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. Other artists who have either paid tribute to Marvin in a song or referenced him have included close friend and former Motown label-mate Edwin Starr, who released "Marvin" the month after his death, Teena Marie's "My Dear Mr. Gaye", the Violent Femmes' 1988 single "See My Ships", Maze featuring Frankie Beverly's 1989 R&B hit, "Silky Soul" and George Michael's "John & Elvis are Dead" where Marvin is mentioned in one the final lines from the repeated chorus. Stevie Wonder wrote the song "Lighting Up the Candles" as a tribute to Gaye following his death and performed the song originally at Gaye's funeral service. Wonder later recorded the song for the Jungle Fever soundtrack.
In 1992, Israeli artist Izhar Ashdot dedicated his song "Eesh Hashokolad" to Gaye. Two tribute albums, 1995's Inner City Blues: The Music of Marvin Gaye (which featured Nona's version of "Inner City Blues") and 1999's Marvin Is 60 featured covers of Marvin's most famous material. Since the 1960s, Marvin's songs have been covered by a variety of artists. The Rolling Stones recorded "Baby Don't You Do It" early in their career while Rod Stewart during his early tenure with Steampacket covered "Can I Get a Witness". His 1965 hit, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" was covered three times by Junior Walker in 1966, again in 1975 by James Taylor, and again in 2002 by gospel singer Helen Baylor. In Baylor's version she substituted the word "baby" for Jesus.
Gaye's 1968 hit "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" has been frequently covered with versions recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Roger Troutman, Edwin Starr and The California Raisins. Donny Hathaway performed a live version of "What's Going On" for his 1972 Live album while Cyndi Lauper recorded a top forty version of "What's Going On" in 1987, the song was re-recorded by a variety of contemporary pop, R&B and rap artists in 2001(again, including Nona) for AIDS benefit and was later dedicated to the events of the September 11, 2001 attacks. A few years after that, rock band A Perfect Circle covered the song in their own hard rock version. The singer's "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" was covered by rock band The Strokes which featured Eddie Vedder on lead vocals. R&B singer Angela Winbush covered "Inner City Blues" in 1994 and was recorded in a slightly different version by Gil-Scott Heron in the 1970s. Aaliyah covered "Got To Give It Up" on her "One In A Million" CD.
Gospel-soul legends Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin have each covered "Wholy Holy" from the What's Going On album while "Let's Get It On" was famously sampled by Shaggy on his breakthrough single, 1994's "Boombastic". Versions of "Sexual Healing" have been recorded by Soul Asylum, Ben Harper, Max-A-Million, Kate Bush, Neil Finn, Sarah Connor and Ne-Yo. Michael McDonald, Diana Ross and Amy Winehouse have all covered or redone their own versions of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", Marvin's 1967 hit with Tammi Terrell while Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn reinterpreted the Marvin/Tammi single, "If This World Were Mine" in 1982. Mary J. Blige and Method Man, with permission, sampled an interpolation of "You're All I Need to Get By" for their 1995 hit, "You're All I Need/I'll Be There for You". Rapper Battman D.E. GannaBanna sampled some of Marvin's work as tribute to the singer on his album, The Life Of An Young Boy & Man.
On April 2, 2006, on the singer's 67th birthday, a park near the neighborhood where Marvin grew up at in Washington, D.C. was renamed after him after a discussion with the City Council. "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" was covered by John Mayer in his Album As/Is, released in 2004. The cover also featured DJ Logic. Elton John's song "Club at the End of the Street" also mentions Marvin Gaye. On the 25th anniversary of Marvin Gaye's death, the singer's hometown of Washington, D.C. again honored the singer by renaming a street he grew up on called "Marvin Gaye Way".
Musical achievements and posthumous releases
Gaye scored 41 Top 40 hit singles on Billboard's Pop Singles chart between 1963 and 2001, 60 Top 40 R&B singles chart hits from 1962 to 2001, 18 Top Ten pop singles on the pop chart, 38 Top 10 singles on the R&B chart, three number-one pop hits and thirteen number-one R&B hits and tied with Michael Jackson in total as well as the fourth biggest artist of all-time to spend the most weeks at the number-one spot on the R&B singles chart (52 weeks). In all, Gaye produced a total of 67 singles on the Billboard charts in total, spanning five decades, including five posthumous releases.
The year a remix of "Let's Get It On" was released to urban adult contemporary radio, "Let's Get It On" was certified gold by the RIAA for sales in excess of 500,000, making it the best-selling single on Motown in the United States. Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" is the best-selling international Motown single, explained by a re-release in Europe following a Levi 501 Jeans commercial in 1986.
On June 19, 2007, Hip-O Records reissued Gaye's final Motown album, In Our Lifetime as an expanded two-disc edition titled In Our Lifetime?: The Love Man Sessions, bringing back the original title with the question mark and included a different mix of the album, which was recorded in London and also including the original songs from the Love Man album, which were songs later edited lyrically for the songs that made the In Our Lifetime album. The same label released a deluxe edition of Gaye's Here, My Dear album, which included a re-sequencing of tracks from the album from producers such as Salaam Remi and Bootsy Collins.
His 1983 NBA All-Star performance of the national anthem was used in a Nike commercial featuring the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team. Also, on CBS Sports' final NBA telecast to date (before the contract moved to NBC) at the conclusion of Game 5 of the 1990 Finals, they used Gaye's 1983 All-Star Game performance over the closing credits.
In 2008, Gaye earned 3.5 million dollars, and took 13th place in 'Top-Earning Dead Celebrities' in Forbes Magazine.
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" one of his most famous songs, voted #1 and greatest Motown song and his "What's Going On" is on the top five.
Documentaries and movies
A documentary about Gaye - What's Going On: The Marvin Gaye Story - was a UK/PBS USA co-production, directed by Jeremy Marre and was first broadcast in 2006; two years later, the special re-aired with a different production and newer interviews after it was re-broadcast as an American Masters special. Gaye is referenced as one of the supernatural acts to appear in the short story and later television version of Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes in "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band".
A play by Caryl Phillips called A Long Way from Home, focusing on Gaye's relationship with his father and his last years in Ostend, was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 in March 2008. It featured O. T. Fagbenle as Gaye and Kerry Shale as Marvin Gay Sr., with Rhea Bailey, Rachel Atkins, Damian Lynch, Alibe Parsons, Ben Onwukwe and Major Wiley. It was directed by Ned Chaillet and produced by Chris Wallis.
So far, two movies are currently being planned on Marvin's life. One movie, Sexual Healing, is based on the post-Motown career of Marvin Gaye's later years with Jesse L. Martin playing Marvin and James Gandolfini playing Marvin's Belgium-based mentor, concert promoter Freddy Cousaert. Another film, simply titled, Marvin, is also in plans for production with F. Gary Gray in helm to direct the film. This film, unlike Sexual Healing, will focus on Marvin's entire life story because unlike Sexual Healing, the second film was allowed rights to Marvin's Motown catalog. Musicians Common and Usher and actor Will Smith have either been rumored to or have aspired to play the singer possibly in the second film.