The Master Jan 31, 2005 15:59:08 GMT -5
Post by Emerald City on Jan 31, 2005 15:59:08 GMT -5
One of the most gifted, visionary, and enduring talents ever launched into orbit by the Motown hit machine, Marvin Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular Black music. Moving from lean, powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also expanded its impact as an agent for social change.
Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. (in the style of his hero Sam Cooke, he added the "e" to his surname as an adult) was born April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C. The second of three children born to the Reverend Marvin Gay Sr., an ordained minister in the House of God -- a conservative Christian sect that fuses elements of orthodox Judaism and Pentecostalism, imposes strict codes of conduct, and observes no holidays -- he began singing in church at the age of three, quickly becoming a soloist in the choir.
Gaye later took up piano and drums, and music became his escape from the nightmarish realities of his home life -- throughout his childhood, his father beat him on an almost daily basis.After graduating from high school, Gaye enlisted in the U.S. Air Force; upon his discharge, he returned to Washington and began singing in a number of street-corner doo wop groups, eventually joining the Rainbows, a top local attraction.
With the help of mentor Bo Diddley, the Rainbows cut "Wyatt Earp," a single for the OKeh label that brought them to the attention of singer Harvey Fuqua, who in 1958 recruited the group to become the latest edition of his backing ensemble, the Moonglows.
After relocating to Chicago, the Moonglows recorded a series of singles for Chess, including 1959's "Mama Loocie." While touring the Midwest, the group performed in Detroit, where Gaye's graceful tenor and three-octave vocal range won the interest of fledgling impresario Berry Gordy Jr., who signed him to the Motown label in 1961.
While first working at Motown as a session drummer and playing on early hits by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, he met Gordy's sister Anna, and married her in late 1961. Upon mounting a solo career, Gaye struggled to find his voice, and early singles failed. Finally, his fourth effort, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," became a minor hit in 1962, and his next two singles -- the 1963 dance efforts "Hitch Hike" and "Can I Get a Witness" -- both reached the Top 30. With 1963's "Pride and Joy," Gaye scored his first Top Ten smash, but often found his role as a hitmaker stifling -- his desire to become a crooner of lush romantic ballads ran in direct opposition to Motown's all-important emphasis on chart success, and the ongoing battle between his artistic ambitions and the label's demands for commercial product continued throughout Gaye's long tenure with the company.
With 1964's Together, a collection of duets with Mary Wells, Gaye scored his first charting album; the duo also notched a number of hit singles together, including "Once Upon a Time" and "What's the Matter With You, Baby?" As a solo performer, Gaye continued to enjoy great success, scoring three superb Top Ten hits -- "Ain't That Peculiar," "I'll Be Doggone," and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" -- in 1965.
In total, he scored some 39 Top 40 singles for Motown, many of which he also wrote and arranged. With Kim Weston, the second of his crucial vocal partners, he also established himself as one of the era's dominant duet singers with the stunning "It Takes Two."
However, Gaye's greatest duets were with Tammi Terrell, with whom he scored a series of massive hits penned by the team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, including 1967's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Your Precious Love," followed by 1968's "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By."
The team's success was tragically cut short in 1967 when, during a concert appearance in Virginia, Terrell collapsed into Gaye's arms on-stage, the first evidence of a brain tumor that abruptly ended her performing career and finally killed her on March 16, 1970. Her illness and eventual loss left Gaye deeply shaken, marring the chart-topping 1968 success of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," his biggest hit and arguably the pinnacle of the Motown sound.