Marvin Gaye: Major Achievements and Contributions to the World of Music

Marvin Gaye, the R&B legend who brought us classics like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Sexual Healing”, was only three years old when he started singing in his father’s church choir. And in spite of all the physical and emotional abuses that he suffered at home (from his father), the Washington, D.C.-born musician was able to rise above those challenges and write his name in the history books.

Throughout the 1980s there was no R&B song more famous than Marvin Gaye’s single “Sexual healing”. The single, which was released in 1982, made the No. 1 position on the Hot Black Singles its home for a whopping ten weeks.

What other feats are Marvin Gaye most remembered for? presents to you some of the most remarkable achievements of the 1996 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner (posthumously).

Who was Marvin Gaye?

Marvin Gaye – Facts and Achievements

Birthday – April 2, 1939

Place of birth – Freedman’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., U.S.

Death date and Place – April 1, 1984

Died at age – 44

Cause of death – shot to death by his father

Burial place – Forest Lawn Cemetery Glendale, California


Birth name – Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.

Father – Marvin Gay, Sr.

Mother – Alberta Gay

Marvin Gaye’s Siblings – 5 siblings

Education – Cardozo High School; Spingarn High School; Randall Junior High School; Syphax Elementary School

Marriages – Anna Gordy (married in 1963; divorced in 1977), Janis Hunter (m. 1977 – 1981)

Children – Three – Marvin III (adopted; son of Denise Gordy, his wife’s niece), Nona and Frankie

Genres – Soul, R&B, Pop, Jazz, Funk

Notable Albums Midnight Love (1982), Let’s Get It On (1973); What’s Going On (1971)

Great hits – “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”, “Ain’t That Peculiar” (1965), “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” (1962), “Pride and Joy” (1963), “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967) and “You’re All I Need to Get By” (1968), “Sexual Healing” (1982)

Labels – Tamla, Tamla-Motown, Columbia

Notable awards and honors – The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1996) (posthumous)

Most famous for – Hit song “Sexual Healing” from the Midnight Love (1982) album

Influenced by – The Moonglows, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Capis, Ray Charles and Little Willie John

Influences on – Stevie Wonder, Tupac Shakur, Common, Nas

Height – 185 cm

Nicknames – “Prince of Soul”, ‘Prince of Motown’

Major Achievements of Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye – Facts and Achievements

Started singing around the age of three

Marvin Gaye’s prowess in music was evident to the world beginning around the age of three, when he took to singing in his father’s church choir.

His father, Marvin Gay Sr, was a church minister, and would often play the piano while Marvin Gaye sang.

His tutors at school encouraged him to follow his passion as he appeared in many of the school’s play, singing Mario Lanza’s “Be My Love”. Music to Marvin Gaye was his only escape from the harsh realities of life and all the physical and emotional abuse inflicted on him by his very abusive father.

He once said that had it not been music, he most likely would have committed suicide at a very young age. For example, at Randall Junior High School, he was a member of the Randall Junior High Glee Club; and at Cardozo High School, he was a well-known among vocal groups and clubs for his singing abilities.

Founding member of the Marquees (1957-1960)

After an unmemorable showing as a basic airman in the United States Air Force, Marvin Gaye decided to fake a severe illness in order to get a general discharge from the service.

He then took to devoting himself fully to his music career by establishing the music vocal quartet, The Marquees, along with his friend Reese Palmer.

With impressive performances in and around the D.C. area, the group were able to catch the attention of Bo Diddley, an African American singer, songwriter and music producer. Diddley successfully got the Marquees signed to OKeh Records, a subsidiary of Columbia.

Following a poor showing with their sole single “Wyatt Earp”, the group got dropped by OKeh Records.

Marvin Gaye and his band members changed the group’s name from the Marquees to Harvey after Harvey Fuqua, the co-founder of Moonglows, took them under his wings.

Marvin Gaye’s first lead vocal recording was in the song “Mama Loocie”,which was recorded in 1959 for the Chess Record label.

After the group disbanded, Gaye moved to Detroit and got work as a session singer in Tri-Phi Records.

Did you know: Marvin Gaye’s vocal quartet worked as session singers for a number of artists, including Chuck Berry?

Marvin Gaye’s charting songs had tremendous impact on Motown sound

The Motown sound of the 1960s and 1970s saw no big influencer than Marvin Gaye. After his impressive performance at a party organized by Motown Record’s president Berry Gordy, Marvin Gaye went on to sign to Tamla Records, a subsidiary of Motown.

Gaye’s work with the label played a huge role in shaping Motown sound, a clear vocal sound that used catchy hooks and layered instrumental sound, making their songs very appealing to both whites and blacks.

Marvin Gaye’s first single, “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”, on the label came in 1961. The single appeared on his debut album The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, which was released in June 1961.

His impact on the record label began around 1962 when he co-wrote the Marvelettes hit song “Beechwood 4-5789”. That same year, his song “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” turned into a commercial success, getting to No. 8 and No. 46 on the R&B chart and the Billboard Hot 100 respectively. Similarly, his songs “Hitch Hike”, “Pride and Joy” and “Can I Get a Witness” all performed brilliantly on the chart, accruing Gaye immense popularity.

Marvin Gaye – Motown Sound

Marvin Gaye’s Duets with incredible singers

As a rising star in the soul and R&B music genres, Gaye was able to secure impressive duets with artists like Diana Ross, Tammi Terrell, Mary Wells, and Kim Weston.

In 1964, he and singer Mary Wells recorded a duet album called Together, which made it to No. 42 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. The album, which was produced by William “Mickey” Stevenson and Clarence Paul, featured fan-favorites like “What’s the Matter With You Baby”, “Once Upon a Time”, and “After the Lights Go Down Low”. The album Together also produced two top 20 singles – “What’s the Matter With You Baby” and “Once Upon a Time”.

“I heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968) was his first No. 1

Written by songwriter Norman Whitfield and producer Barrett Strong, Marvin Gaye’s version of the song “I heard It Through the Grapevine” earned the No. 1 spot on the Billboard R&B Singles chart for seven weeks in 1968. The song was featured on Gaye’s eight studio album In the Groove (1968). It also charted in other countries, and went on to sell over 4 million copies.

Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Going On” (1970)

Marvin Gaye’s hit song “What’s Going On” (1970) was inspired by the political and racial tensions of the 1950s and 1960s, including the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.; the police brutality; the anti-war rally in Berkeley.

Initially, Motown’s Berry Gordy vehemently refused releasing it; however, after Gaye protested profusely the song was eventually released in 1971. It turned out to be one of Gaye’s greatest hit songs, as it reached  No. 1 on the R&B charts in just a month.

In addition to staying on the top of the chart for five weeks, the song sold over two million copies. An album with the same title What’s Going On was released on May 21, 1971. It gave Marvin Gaye two top ten singles – “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)” and “Inner City Blues”. The album was also the artist’s first million-selling album, wining two Grammy Award nominations in 1972 and a number of NAACP Image Awards.

Other notable achievements of Marvin Gaye

He had immense influence on many R&B subgenres, including quiet storm and neo soul.

In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A year later, he received another posthumous induction into the NAACP Hall of Fame.

He has also received inductions into other halls of fame, including the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Marvin Gaye received his Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.

He came in at No. 18 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time; he was placed at No. 6 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time; and No. 82 on the list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of all Time. Similarly, Q magazine considers him the sixth greatest singer of all time.

His hit songs What’s Going On (1971), Let’s Get It On (1973), and Here My Dear (1978) made it to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Why did Gaye change his name?

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye in 1966

Marvin Gaye was born Marvin Pentz Gay. He decided to add an “e” to the end of his surname in order to remove doubts about his sexuality. It has also been claimed that that his name change was his way of parting ways with his father, Gay Sr. Marvin Gaye’s had an awful childhood, as he was constantly on the receiving end of his father’s physical and emotional abuses. Marvin Gaye once compared living with his father to like living with a tyrannical and unstable king.

His 1969 album M.P.G., which was produced by Norman Whitfield, Brian Holland, and Lamont Dozier for the Tamla Label, bare the initials of his name – Marvin Pentz Gay. M.P.G was No. 1 album on R&B album charts; and throughout the 1960s it was considered the best-selling album. The album also made it to the Top 40 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart.

More Marvin Gaye Facts

Marvin Gaye’s first solo hit was the single “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” (1962). The song reached No. 8 and No. 46 on the R&B chart and the Billboard Hot 100 respectively.

Over the course of his blistering singing career, Gaye collaborated with several artists, including Kim Weston in the hit song “It Takes Two” (1965); Tammi Terrell in “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1966); “Your Precious” (1967), and “You’re All I need to Get By” (1968). He also collaborated with Diana Ross on the duet album Diana & Marvin. The album was released on October 26, 1973.

His song “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” (1965), which was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, attained No. 6 position on the Hot 100  and also made it into the top 50 in the UK.

Marvin Gaye’s 1965 singles “I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar” sold over a million copies.

In 1971, Gaye singed a very sumptuous deal with Motown to the tune of about $1 million. It was the most lucrative deal awarded to a black recording artist at the time.

His album Let’s Get It On (1973) stayed on the album charts for two years. The title track made it to No. 1 on the Hot 100. The album, which could boast of other hit tracks like “Come Get to This” and “You Sure Love to Ball”, sold about four million copies.

To support a UNESCO benefit concert for African literacy drive, Gaye performed at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in October 1975.

Marvin Gaye

How did Marvin Gaye die?

Marvin Gaye and his father, Gay Sr., had quite a frosty relationship beginning as far back as his early childhood. Things reached an all-time low when on April 1, 1984 Gay Sr. cold bloodedly shot and killed his son with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol after a heated argument.

The renowned singer who only two years prior to that had given the world the hit song “Sexual Healing” was shot twice – one bullet went right straight through his heart and the other in his shoulder – at his parents’ home in West Adams district of Los Angeles.

Marvin Gaye succumbed to the gunshot wounds around 1 p.m. on April 1, 1984 at the California Hospital Medical Center.

The R&B/soul legend was survived by his three children, parents, and five siblings. He was cremated at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills, and his ashes were later thrown into the Pacific Ocean.

Marvin Gaye’s father, Gay Sr., was later charged with voluntary manslaughter, which he pleaded no contest to on September 20, 1984. He was then handed a six-year suspended sentence and five years of probation. He spent the last few years of his life in a nursing home before dying of pneumonia on October 10, 1998.

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