Marvin Gaye: Sexual Confusion, Bittersweet Success, and Murder

Marvin Gaye is considered to be one of the most iconic soul singer/songwriters to come out of Motown and was known as the “Prince of Soul.”  He was born on April 2, 1939 in Washington D.C..  He was named after his father Reverend Marvin Gay, who raised him in a strict environment.  Gaye learned to play the piano and drums in his childhood and sung in church until he reached high school when he joined the vocal group The New Moonglows.

Gaye’s work with The New Moonglows got him recognized by Berry Gordy, who soon signed him to Motown Records.  He worked behind the scenes at the label until he produced his first hit “Hitch Hike” in 1962.

He went on to produce more hits including Motown’s bestselling single of the 1960s, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”  The success of the decade ended with the tragic death of his singing partner Tammi Terrell, who died of a brain tumor and left Gaye depressed and ready to leave the stage for good.

Gaye’s 1971 hit “What’s Going On,” was a smash hit and took him in a new creative direction as he began to express himself politically through his music.  “Let’s Get It On,” followed in 1972, and became Gaye’s second No.1 Billboard hit.

Gaye’s love life proved tumultuous.  His marriage to Anna Gordy, Barry Gordy’s sister, ended in 1975.  He married Janis Hunter two years later after Hunter had given birth to their daughter while he was still technically married to Gordy.  The couple also had a son, but there marriage also ended in divorce in 1981.

Gaye’s love life was not the only part of his life filled with ups and downs.  Gaye also struggled with depression and substance abuse.  Gaye moved back into his parents house after his last tour where he and his father had frequent fights about issues that had haunted the family for decades.  It was one of these quarrels that led to Gaye’s death when his father shot and killed him following a physical altercation between the two on April 1, 1984.  His father was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The following video is a documentary of Gaye’s life and includes rare film and recordings of the singer.  It is directed by Jeremy Marre who refers to the story of Gaye’s life as one of ‘outer grace and inner torment.’

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