Remembering the Prince Of Soul, Marvin Gaye

The legendary singer was pivotal in taking Soul music to the mainstream during the 1960’s

Remembering the Prince Of Soul, Marvin Gaye

Born on April 2, 1939, Marvin Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960’s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist. He is regarded as one of the biggest soul music artists ever and his influence and legacy remains intact 39 years after his untimely death. Gaye became worldwide famous during the 1960’s with hits such as string of hits, including “Ain’t That Peculiar”, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, and duet recordings with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Diana Ross and Tammi Terrell. His approach to soul music was pivotal on the development in the mainstream of that music genre as he was able to earn not only Soul music fans but also from other genres such as Rock, Soul, Jazz and Pop among others. In his lifetime, he earned the titles of “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”. During the 1970’s, he recorded what is considered to be still his most memorable album, the 1971 “What’s Going On” that was a strong political record. The album was inspired by an idea from Renaldo “Obie” Benson of the Four Tops after he witnessed an act of police brutality at an anti-war rally in Berkeley. Upon hearing the song, Berry Gordy refused its release due to his feelings of the song being “too political” for radio. Gaye responded by going on strike from recording until the label released the song. Released in 1971, it reached No. 1 on the R&B charts within a month, staying there for five weeks. It also reached the top spot on Cashbox’s pop chart for a week and reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 and the Record World chart, selling over two million copies; it included the hits “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Inner City Blues”. In 1973 he released another hit album, “Let’s Get It On” and its title track became Gaye’s second No. 1 single on the Hot 100. The album subsequently stayed on the charts for two years and sold over three million copies. This was a transition period for Gaye, as he became one of the first artists in Motown (joint with Stevie Wonder) to break away from the reins of a production company. He took that advantage to explore other music styles and several contemporary R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo soul. During the late 1970’s, Marvin falls into drug addiction due to depression, this period was the toughest during his career while he struggles with addiction for years to come. Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980’s, Gaye left Motown for CBS/Columbia and released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing” and its the album “Midnight Love”. “Sexual Healing” became his biggest hit, spending a record ten weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Black Singles chart, becoming the biggest R&B hit of the 1980’s according to Billboard. The success later translated to the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1983 where it peaked at No. 3, while also reaching international success, peaking to the top spot in New Zealand and Canada and reaching the top ten on the United Kingdom’s singles chart, later selling over two million copies in the U.S. alone. Marvin Gaye was murdered by his father on April 1, 1984, one day before his 45th birthday, in the sequence of a physical altercation when Gaye intervened in a fight between his parents and was fatally shot. Since his untimely death, many institutions have posthumously bestowed Gaye with awards and other honors—including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Today, the Soul legend would had turned 84.

Watch Marvin Gaye’ performing “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980

Listen to some of the very best Marvin Gaye songs on the 1994 compilation “The Best Of Marvin Gaye”

See Also

The Last Hours Of Marvin Gaye
The Last Hours Of Marvin Gaye

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