Marvin Gaye is one of the artists you’re likely to hear more than just one song from on THE BEAT.
We’re firm believers in remembering what music is all about. Real music, musicians, singers, arrangers, composers, talent that understands what song structure is and most importantly, people with soul that reach your soul.
Today, the icon would’ve been 80 (at publishing date) The late, great Marvin Gaye was one of those artists and today, we feature a classic concert of his from 1976 in Amsterdam along with great music videos, interviews, documentaries and more below.
ABOUT MARVIN GAYE
Born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. on April 2, 1939 and was killed by his father on April 1, 1984). His relationship with his father would be turbulent throughout his life. His home life consisted of “brutal whippings” by his father, who struck him for any shortcoming. The young Gaye described living in his father’s house as similar to “…living with a king, a very peculiar, changeable, cruel, and all powerful king.” He felt that had his mother not consoled him and encouraged his singing, he would have killed himself. In fact, his sister later explained that Gaye was beaten often, from age seven well into his teenage years.
Following a ‘General Discharge’ from the Air Force, Gaye would return to the D.C. area where he and his good friend Reese Palmer formed the vocal quartet The Marquees. The group performed in the D.C. area and soon began working with Bo Diddley, who assigned the group to Columbia subsidiary OKeh Records after failing to get the group signed to his own label, Chess. The group’s sole single, “Wyatt Earp” (co-written by Bo Diddley), failed to chart and the group was soon dropped from the label. It was at this point when Gaye began composing music.
The Moonglows co-founder Harvey Fuqua later hired The Marquees as employees. Under Fuqua’s direction, the group changed its name to Harvey and the New Moonglows, and relocated to our hometown, Chicago. The group recorded several sides for Chess in 1959, including the song “Mama Loocie”, which was Gaye’s first lead vocal recording. The group found work as session singers for established acts such as Chuck Berry, singing on the hits “Back in the U.S.A.” and “Almost Grown”.
In 1960, the group disbanded. Gaye relocated to Detroit with Fuqua where he signed with Tri-Phi Records as a session musician, playing drums on several Tri-Phi releases. Gaye performed at Motown president Berry Gordy’s house during the holiday season in 1960. Impressed by the singer, Gordy sought Fuqua on his contract with Gaye. Fuqua agreed to sell part of his interest in his contract with Gaye. Shortly afterwards, Gaye signed with Motown subsidiary Tamla.
When Gaye signed with Tamla, he pursued a career as a performer of jazz music and standards, having no desire to become an R&B performer. Before the release of his first single, Gaye was teased about his surname, with some jokingly asking, “Is Marvin Gay?”
Gaye changed the spelling of his surname by adding an e, in the same way as did Sam Cooke. Author David Ritz wrote that Gaye did this to silence rumors of his sexuality, and to put more distance between himself and his father.
Gaye released his first single, “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”, in May 1961, with the album The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, following a month later. Gaye’s initial recordings failed commercially and he spent most of 1961 performing session work as a drummer for artists such as The Miracles, The Marvelettes and blues artist Jimmy Reed for $5 a week.
While Gaye took some advice on performing with his eyes open (having been accused of appearing as though he were sleeping), he refused to attend grooming school courses at the John Roberts Powers School for Social Grace in Detroit because of his unwillingness to comply with its orders, something he later regretted.
Marvin truly helped shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s. He started out as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of hits, earning him the nicknames “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”.
Gaye’s Motown hits include “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. During the 1970s, he recorded the albums What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On and became one of the first artists in Motown, along with Stevie Wonder, to break away from the reins of a production company.
His later recordings influenced several contemporary R&B sub-genres, such as quiet storm and neo soul.
Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, he released the 1982 hit “Sexual Healing”, which won him his first two Grammy Awards, and its parent album Midnight Love.
Gaye’s last television appearances were at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, where he sang “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever and on Soul Train which was his third and final appearance.
On April 1, 1984, the day before his 45th birthday, Gaye’s father, Marvin Gay Sr., fatally shot him at their house in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.
Since his death, many institutions have posthumously bestowed Gaye with awards and other honors including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and inductions into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.