Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984), better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye, 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 starting off as a session drummer, Gaye ranked as the label's top-selling solo artist during the sixties.
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 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 early eighties, Gaye returned on the 1982 Grammy-winning hit, "Sexual Healing" and the Midnight Love album before his death. Gaye was shot dead by 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.
Comeback and sudden death: 1982–84
On the advice of Belgian concert promoter Freddy Cousaert, Gaye moved to Ostend, Belgium, in early 1981 where he enjoyed a brief period of sobriety from drug abuse. Still upset over Motown's decision to release In Our Lifetime, he negotiated a release from the label and signed with Columbia Records in 1982, releasing the Midnight Love album late that year. The album included "Sexual Healing" which was Gaye's last hit. He wrote it during his 2 month stay in the village Moere, near Ostend. Gaye's friend and lawyer Curtis Shaw calls this Moere-period "the best thing that ever happened to Marvin." The video clip of "Sexual Healing" is recorded in the Casino-Kursaal in Ostend.
The single reached number one on Billboard's RB chart, where it stayed for ten weeks, later crossing to number three on Billboard's Hot 100. The single sold two million copies in the U.S. earning a platinum certification. The song also gave Gaye his first two Grammy Awards (Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, Best R&B Instrumental) in February 1983. It was nominated for Best R&B Song but lost to George Benson's "Turn Your Love Around".
The following year, he was nominated for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance again, this time for the Midnight Love album. In February 1983, Gaye performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the NBA All-Star Game, held at The Forum in Inglewood, California, accompanied by Gordon Banks who played the studio tape from stands. In March 1983, he gave his final performance in front of his old mentor Berry Gordy and the Motown label for Motown 25, performing "What's Going On." He then embarked on a U.S. tour to support his album. The tour, ending in August 1983, was plagued by health problems and Gaye's bouts with depression, and fear over an attempt on his life.
When the tour ended, he isolated himself by moving into his parents' house. He threatened to commit suicide several times after bitter arguments with his father. On April 1, 1984, 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 that Marvin Jr. had given him four months before. Marvin Gaye would have turned 45 the next day. Marvin Sr. was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Charges of first-degree murder were dropped after it was revealed that Marvin Sr. had been beaten by Marvin Jr. before the killing. Doctors discovered Marvin Sr. had a brain tumor but was deemed fit for trial. Spending his final years in a retirement home, he died of pneumonia in 1998.
In 1987, Marvin Gaye Jr. 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.
In 2005, Marvin Gaye Jr. was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. In 2007, two of Gaye's most important recordings, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "What's Going On", were voted Legendary Michigan Songs.