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Gone But Not Forgotten: Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye, 4/2/1939 - 4/1/1984
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    Marvin Gaye, 4/2/1939 - 4/1/1984
    One of the most visionary and enduring talents to come out of the Motown hit machine, Gaye blazed a trail for the evolution of black music. Moving from powerful R&B to sophisticated soul to arrive at an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his work redefined soul music and expanded its impact as an agent for social change. Photo: WireImage
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    Pictured: Marvin Gaye's 1961 debut, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye. Gaye was among the early artists signed to Motown. In 1961, while working primarily as a session drummer, he married label head Berry Gordy's sister Anna. During this time his first solo releases failed, but songs like his first hit, 1962's "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" as well as "Pride and Joy", and "How Sweet Is Is (To Be Loved By You)" started to strike gold. These records set the style for the next three years, as Gaye enjoyed hits with a series of energetic, dance songs that cast him as a smooth soul figure.
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    To capitalize on his image as a ladies' man, Motown teamed Gaye with their leading female vocalist, Mary Wells, for some romantic duets. When Wells left Motown in 1964, Gaye recorded with Kim Weston until 1967, when she was succeeded by Tammi Terrell. She became his most frequent and best loved partner. The Gaye-Terrell partnership represented the peak of the Motown soul duet, as their voices blended sensuously on a string of hits written specifically for the duo by Ashford And Simpson.
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    Terrell developed a brain tumour in 1968, and collapsed onstage in Gaye's arms. His career was derailed by the illness and eventual death of Terrell in March 1970. Devastated by the loss of his close friend and partner, Gaye spent most of 1970 in seclusion - despite his biggest chart success to date, #1 hit "I Heard It Through the Grapevine".
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    With the added stress of a crumbling marriage, Marvin Gaye retreated from the spotlight. Gaye, often critical of Motown's apolitical material and artistic compromises, returned with 1971's self-produced What's Going On, marking a dramatic change in his songwriting. In his new songs, Gaye combined his spiritual beliefs with his increasing concern about poverty, discrimination and political corruption in American society. The chart success of the title track, "Inner City Blues", and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" baffled Berry Gordy, who had fought Gaye over the release of the record. The album's triumph was a triumph for Gaye, Motown and the changing face of R&B.
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    Between What's Going On and his next landmark album Let's Get It On, Marvin Gaye scored the jazz-influenced soundtrack to blaxploitation thriller Trouble Man in 1972. Tracks included the slick instrumental "T Plays It Cool" and the moody, minimalist title track.
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    The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye's work reached its boiling point with his next project, 1973's Let's Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded.
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    A work of intense lust and longing, it became the most commercially successful effort of his career, and the title cut became his second number one hit.
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    A poster for the Let's Get It On tour supported by Ashford and Simpson. Some Marvin Gaye trivia... Prior to signing with Motown, Gaye's vocal groups worked as session singers with Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Also, during his depression following Tammi Terrell's death, Marvin Gaye sought a position playing football with the Detroit Lions.
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    Marvin Gaye gets jolly on the cover of Jet in 1976. That year saw another critically acclaimed album from Gaye, I Want You. The title track was another number #1 hit on the soul charts, as was his 1977 disco outing, "Got To Give It Up". Unfortunately, it was during this time he began to use cocaine more and more regularly, he became obsessed with his personal life, and rarely let the outside world figure in his work.
    Photo: Jet magazine
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    Marvin Gaye again on the cover of Jet in a more serious mood in 1979. Drug problems and tax demands interrupted his career, and in 1978 he fled the US mainland to Hawaii in a vain attempt to salvage his marriage. Gaye devoted the next year to the Here My Dear double album, a bitter commentary on his relationship with his first wife. Its title was ironic. He had been ordered to give all royalties from the project to Anna as part of their divorce settlement.
    Photo: Jet magazine
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    In 1980 Gaye began work on an ambitious concept album, In My Lifetime that ultimately failed. Gaye accused Motown of remixing and editing the album without his consent and of changing his original cover artwork. Marvin Gaye's final release, Midnight Love (1982) with "Sexual Healing" was released on Columbia Records. It marked a heated, contentious break from Berry Gordy and Motown.
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    Despite increasingly erratic behavior, years spent away from critical success, tax troubles, European exile, consuming legal battles with ex-wives, and an escalating cocaine addiction, Marvin Gaye emerged from a dark period one last time to stunning commercial success and renewed stardom. The success of "Sexual Healing" seemed to herald a new era in Gaye's music.
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    Marvin Gaye pictured with his children Frankie and Nona in 1983 at the 25th Annual Grammy Awards when he won Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Sexual Healing". During this time Gaye reconciled with Berry Gordy, performing on the "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever" TV special. Photo: WireImage
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    Marvin Gaye's funeral, 1984. He died one day before his 45th birthday. He had always had a difficult relationship with his abusive father, and retreating home after a grueling tour while suffering from cocaine-related paranoia and suicidal depression was a recipe for tragedy. After days of heated arguments, Marvin Gay, Sr. shot his son with a gun given to him as a Christmas gift. Marvin Gaye's entire recorded output signifies the development of black music from raw rhythm and blues, through sophisticated soul to the political awareness of the early 70's, and the increased concentration on personal and sexual politics thereafter. Photo: WireImage