Musicheads Essential Artist: Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye photo
Marvin Gaye (Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty)
Musicheads Essential Artist: Marvin Gaye
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After a short career in the Air Force and dabbling in doo-wop groups in his native D.C., Marvin Gaye found himself writing and working as a session drummer for Motown. Ultimately he was called up to the vocal mic, and he got his first taste of sustained success in a series of chart-topping duets with Tammi Terrell.

Tragically, the partnership was cut short by a malignant brain tumor discovered too late in Tammi. Gaye was despondent for a number of years, but he ultimately found his way back on his first masterpiece, What's Going On.

Marvin Gaye had to go on strike with Berry Gordy, the owner of Motown Records, to have the title track hit the airwaves, as Gordy figured it was too political for the radio. The record went on to be one of the best-selling full-lengths in Motown's catalog. Let's Get It On was a commercial success, and it helped spawn the soulful sub-genre of quiet storm, a.k.a. baby-making music.

Sidelined by a cocaine addiction in the late '70s, Gaye got back into performing health in Belgium in the early '80s and released his last mega-hit, "Sexual Healing," in 1982. Sadly, after completing a tour and preparing for more recordings, Marvin Gaye's father killed him in 1984 in a domestic dispute. The music world mourned, and his funeral was attended by over 10,000 people.

Since Gaye's death, the music world's reverence for the contributions of Marvin Gaye have only increased, and his records remain essential pieces of any well-curated discography of American music. Armed with one of the most stunning voices in the history of recorded music, Marvin Gaye's willingness to push soul into new places musically and lyrically made him a world-class artist.

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