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Sun, 04.02.1939

Marvin Gaye, Lyricist, and Singer born

Marvin Gaye

This date in 1939 marks the birth of Marvin Gaye, a Black singer, songwriter, and recording artist.

He was born in Washington, D.C., sang in church as a child, and grew up listening to Ray Charles, who influenced his work. In 1958, he joined the vocal group Moonglows. Three years later, he signed a recording contract with Tamla, one of the subsidiaries of Motown Record Company, serving as a drummer and later as a singer.  Further influenced by Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole, Gaye had hoped to sing as a crooner. But after his first album received little attention, Motown had him record a more up-tempo style of soul music.

The result was a series of songs that became classics, such as "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Some of Gaye's other popular records from the Motown era include "Can I Get a Witness," "How Sweet It Is," "Ain't That Peculiar," and "I'll Be Doggone." Later in the decade, Marvin Gaye recorded a series of romantic duets with Tammi Terrell. Shortly after Terrell died in 1970, Gaye established a new style of music with the album "What's Going On," a deeply personal and spiritual reflection on family, social issues, and the Vietnam War.

This work marked one of the first times Motown had given an artist nearly complete creative control. By the end of the 1970s, his career was in decline, and his personal problems were mounting. Marvin Gaye retreated to Europe, where he recorded the hit song "Sexual Healing," which won two Grammy Awards.

“Got to Give It Up" was released in March 1977 by Gaye. Written by the singer and produced by Art Stewart, it was a response to Gaye's record label's request that he perform disco music.  It topped three different Billboard charts and became a worldwide success. Gaye sometimes used the song to open his concerts. Several acts have covered the song.

He then returned to the United States and moved in with his parents.  In 1984, amid a heated quarrel, his father killed him.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three years later.

To Become a Musician or Singer



Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

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