1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Guide Profile: Marvin Gaye


Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye


Marvin Pentz Gay Jr., April 2nd, 1939, Washington, DC; died April 1, 1984 (Los Angeles, CA)


Soul, Motown, R&B, Funk, Pop, Pop Vocal, Easy Listening, Jazz


Vocals, Drums, Keyboards

Contributions to music:

  • One of Motown's most talented artists
  • Brought jazz elements into soul
  • Created several of the most romantic records ever made
  • Helped bring a social consciousness to R&B
  • Talked about sexual relations in a frank manner in his music
  • Perfected the art of the duet
  • Utilized several unique production elements in his music

Early life:

The son of a preacher who ministered to a obscure and conservative Christian sect, Marvin sang in the choir at an early age, and, like many of his peers, formed a doo-wop group (The Marquees). That group was soon hired by Harvey Fuqua to be his backing vocalists, the Moonglows; after their dissolution, Marvin followed Fuqua to Detroit, where he met Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. Gordy soon signed Gay to a contract, although he was merely a session drummer at first.


After adding an "e" to his last name (a tribute to idol Sam Cooke, who had done the same thing), and enduring a few flops, Marvin hit with "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" in 1962. From there, he crafted a sexy image that established him as Motown's leading man, which garnered him a number of solo hits and duets with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell. Gaye considered himself a pop-vocal balladeer at heart, but he could hardly leave the label, married as he was to Gordy's sister, Anna.

Later years:

Gaye challenged Gordy to give him more creative control in the early Seventies, resulting in the dual masterpieces "What's Going On" and "Let's Get It On." Gaye spent most of the late Seventies battling Anna in divorce court and nurturing a cocaine habit, but he returned to the charts with 1983's triumphant "Sexual Healing." His drug habit had forced him to move back into his father's house, however, and after a violent argument, the elder Gay shot his son, ending his life.

Other Facts:

  • Had a stormy relationship with his father for his entire life
  • Was inspired to make "What's Going On" by heroin, urban blight, and the war in Vietnam
  • Tammi Terrell collapsed in his arms onstage, due to a brain tumor that would take her life and leave Marvin devastated
  • Titled his 1976 album "Here, My Dear," after being ordered to give the royalties to Anna
  • Last public performance was a controversial rendition of the US national anthem at an NBA game
  • Mentored by Bo Diddley in his early doo-wop days


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987)
  • Grammy Awards (1982)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1999)

Important Songs:

#1 hits:
  • "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (1968)
  • "Let's Get It On" (1973)
  • "Got To Give It Up (Pt. I)" (1977)
  • "Ain't That Peculiar (1965)
  • "I'll Be Doggone" (1965)
  • "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" (1968)
  • "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (1968)
  • "You're All I Need To Get By" (1968)
  • "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (1969)
  • "What's Going On" (1971)
  • "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (1971)
  • "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" (1971)
  • "Let's Get It On" (1973)
  • "I Want You" (1976)
  • "Got To Give It Up (Pt. I)" (1977)
  • "Sexual Healing" (1982)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Pride And Joy" (1963)
  • "Ain't That Peculiar" (1965)
  • "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You" (1965)
  • "I'll Be Doggone" (1965)
  • "Your Precious Love" (1967)
  • "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (1968)
  • "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" (1968)
  • "You're All I Need To Get By" (1968)
  • "That's The Way Love Is" (1969)
  • "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (1969)
  • "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" (1971)
  • "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (1971)
  • "What's Going On" (1971)
  • "Trouble Man" (1973)
  • "Sexual Healing" (1983)
#1 Albums:
  • M.P.G. (1969)
  • What's Going On (1971)
  • Let's Get It On (1973)
  • Marvin Gaye Live! (1974)
  • I Want You (1976)
  • Marvin Gaye Live At The London Palladium (1977)
  • Midnight Love (1982)
Other important recordings: "Can I Get A Witness," "Hitch Hike," "Baby Don't You Do It," "You're A Wonderful One," "If This World Were Mine," "Distant Lover," "You Sure Love To Ball," "After The Dance," "Ego Tripping Out"
Wrote or co-wrote: "Baby, I'm For Real," The Originals; "Beechwood 4-5789," The Marvelettes; "Dancing In The Street," Martha and the Vandellas; "The Bells," The Originals
Covered by: Hall and Oates, The Who, The Isley Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Aaliyah, The Sonics, Todd Rundgren, Madonna, Rickie Lee Jones, Bono, Cyndi Lauper, Soul Asylum, A Perfect Circle, Coldplay, Stevie Wonder
Appears in the movies: "The T.A.M.I. Show" (1965), "Chrome And Hot Leather" (1971), "Save The Children" (1973)
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. Oldies Music
  4. Oldies Artists and Bands
  5. Guide Profile: Marvin Gaye

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.