Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye's life ended tragically at the hands of his father in 1984, but appreciation of

the legendary soul singer's talent and musical contributions has continued to grow.

Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. was born 60 years ago today in Washington, D.C. He sang and

played organ in church as a youngster. After a stint in the Air Force, Gaye sang doo-wop

in such Washington, D.C., street-corner groups as the Rainbows.

In 1957, Gaye, who added the "e" to his name in the same manner as his idol Sam

Cooke, formed his own group, the Marquees. The band was championed by the

legendary Bo Diddley, who helped it record the single "Wyatt Earp." The Marquees also

worked with Harry Fuqua as one of his backing groups under the name, the Moonglows.

After hearing the group in Detroit, rising Motown leader Berry Gordy Jr. signed Gaye to

his fledgling label in 1961. Gaye, who impressed Gordy with his pleasing tenor and wide

vocal range, soon married the latter's sister Anna and spent his first years at the label as

a session drummer on records by such artists as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

In 1962, Gaye scored his first hit, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow." He enjoyed a few dance

hits, but began specializing in soulful, seductive ballads with a sophisticated sheen. He

worked with Robinson and other famous producers, including Norman Whitfield and the

team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Gaye enjoyed a long relationship -- and many hits -- with Motown. But he felt the label

forced him to do more hit-oriented material than the lush ballads he preferred. Gaye

smashes included "Pride and Joy," "I'll Be Doggone" and "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved

By You" (later covered by James Taylor).

Several of Gaye's singles featured backing vocals by such hit Motown acts as the

Supremes and the Temptations; and Gaye did a number of duets with Mary Wells,

including 1964's "Once Upon a Time."

But his most lasting collaborations were with the late Tammi Terrell. The two recorded

such Ashford and Simpson-written and produced smashes as "Ain't No Mountain High

Enough," "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" and "Your Precious Love." In 1967, Terrell

collapsed in Gaye's arms during a concert and died a few years later of a brain tumor.

In 1968 Gaye enjoyed the #1 hit, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," a tune previously

recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Gaye subsequently gained more artistic control

over his records, a creative perk afforded to only one other Motown act of the era, Stevie

Wonder. With this freedom, Gaye entered the most important phase of his career, during

which he gave voice to the concerns of blacks during the civil rights movement.

What's Going On


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cut), released in 1971, was his greatest achievement in this regard. The LP was

a self-written, self-produced concept album containing songs about social concerns,

including the war in Vietnam and tension between the races. Other tracks included the

hits "Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues." The album opened the gates

for a flood of socially conscious music by black recording artists.

The following year Gaye scored the film "Trouble Man" and had a hit with the title cut,

which Joni Mitchell has been singing recently in concert. His work then concentrated

more than ever on sexuality, beginning with 1973's Let's Get It On, which gave

him another #1 pop hit in the title track.

After a duet LP with Diana Ross and a divorce from his wife, Gaye had a #1 hit with "Got

to Give It Up, Pt. 1" and chronicled his marital troubles on 1978's Here My Dear.

While battling the IRS and a cocaine dependency, Gaye moved to Europe. In 1982, he

issued the multiplatinum Midnight Love which spawned the Grammy Award-

winning smash "Sexual Healing," a song that seemed to cement his superstardom for a

new decade.

But two years later, after reportedly threatening suicide, Gaye was shot to death by his

minister father following a violent shouting match. Gaye was inducted into the Rock and

Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. His father, Marvin P. Gay Sr., served five years' probation for

voluntary manslaughter in the death of his son and died last year at 84.

Other birthdays: Leon Russell, 58; Emmylou Harris, 52; Leon Wilkeson (Lynyrd Skynyrd),

47; David Robinson (Cars), 46; Keren Jane Woodward (Bananarama), 38.