I Heard it Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye (The Prince of Motown)

On the 25th Anniversary of his untimely death.  I want to pay tribute to the great voice of Marvin Gaye.

Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer-songwriter and instrumentalist with a three-octave vocal range.   Starting as a member of the doo-wop group The Moonglows in the late fifties, he ventured into a solo career after the group disbanded in 1960 signing with the Tamla subsidiary of Motown Records.   After a year as a session drummer, Gaye ranked as the label’s top-selling solo artist during the sixties.

Due to solo hits including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)“, “Ain’t That Peculiar“, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and his duet singles with singers such as Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, he was crowned “The Prince of Motown” and “The Prince of Soul”.

Notable for fighting the hit-making but restrictive Motown process in which performers and songwriters and producers were kept separate, Gaye proved with albums like his 1971 What’s Going On and his 1973 Let’s Get It On. It was impressive that he was able to produce music without relying on the system, inspiring fellow Motown artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to do the same.

His mid-1970s work including the Let’s Get It On and I Want You albums helped influence the quiet storm, urban adult contemporary and slow jam genres. After a self-imposed European exile in the late seventies, Gaye returned on the 1982 Grammy-winning hit, “Sexual Healing” and the Midnight Love album before his death at the hands of his father on April 1, 1984. He was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

In 2008, the American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Gaye #6 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time, and ranked #18 on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

On April 1, 1984, one day before his 45th birthday, Gaye’s father fatally shot him after an argument that started after his parents squabbled over misplaced business documents. Gaye attempted to intervene, and was killed by his father using a gun he had given him four months before.   Marvin Sr. was sentenced to six years of probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter.   Charges of first-degree murder were dropped after doctors discovered Marvin Sr. had a brain tumor. Spending his final years in a retirement home, he died of pneumonia in 1998.   In 1987, Gaye was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   He was also inducted to Hollywood’s Rock Walk in 1989 and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.

Marvin will be featured by this site in the future, but as a tribute to those of us “who have ears to hear” this is one sweet voice and one great song.

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