Anna Ruby Gordy Gaye (January 28, 1922 – January 31, 2014) was an American businesswoman, composer and songwriter. An elder sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, she became a record executive in the mid-to-late 1950s distributing records released on Checker and Gone Records before forming the Anna label with Billy Davis and sister Gwen. Gordy later became known as a songwriter for several hits including the Originals' "Baby, I'm for Real," and at least two songs on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" album. The first wife of Gaye, their turbulent marriage later served as inspiration for Gaye's album, "Here, My Dear."
Life and career
Born Anna Ruby Gordy on January 28, 1922, in Oconee, Georgia, she was the third eldest of Berry Gordy Sr. (Berry Gordy II) and Bertha Ida (née Fuller) Gordy's eight children. Into her first year, Gordy's family relocated to Detroit. Following graduation from high school in 1940, Gordy relocated to California, which is where Gordy's younger brother Berry moved to after he dropped out of high school to form a boxing career. Returning to Detroit in the mid-1950s, she and younger sister Gwen became operators of the photo concession at Detroit's Flame Show Bar.
By the late 1950s, members of the Gordy family were getting involved with the music business. In 1956, Anna began her career distributing records with Checker Records. Around 1957, she distributed a couple recordings for Gone Records. In 1958, she founded the label, Anna Records, with musician Billy Davis. Gordy's younger sister Gwen acted as co-partner with the label. The label was formed a year before Berry launched Tamla Records, later a subsidiary for Motown. Anna distributed Tamla's first national hit, Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)." Artists such as David Ruffin and Joe Tex also recorded for the label while Marvin Gaye became a session musician with the company. After the label was absorbed by Motown in 1961, Gordy joined Motown as a songwriter. Some of Gordy's early compositions were recorded by Gaye and Mary Wells. In 1965, Gordy co-wrote Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means to Me." Gordy later co-composed the Originals' hits, "Baby, I'm for Real" and "The Bells" alongside Marvin Gaye. Gordy's name was included as a co-songwriter on two songs off Gaye's 1971 album, "What's Going On," including "Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)" and "God Is Love." In 1973, Gordy's name was included in the credits to the song, "Just to Keep You Satisfied," which was first recorded in 1969 by the Monitors and also recorded by the Originals two years later. Gaye's version was actually overdubbed from the Originals recording and reversed the song's romantic lyrics for a more solemn view of the end of a marriage. Gordy eventually left Motown at the end of the 1970s and retired from the music industry.
Gordy first met Marvin Gaye in 1959 when Gaye was just 20 years old, singing with Harvey and the New Moonglows. Gaye soon began working at Anna Records and soon developed an attraction to Gordy. They eventually began dating in 1960. After a three-year courtship, they married in June 1963.
Inspired by their romance, Marvin penned hit singles based off Anna including "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," "Pride and Joy," and "You're a Wonderful One." Of "Pride and Joy," Gaye said, "When I composed 'Pride and Joy,' I was head over heels in love with Anna. I just wrote what I felt about her, and what she did for me. She was my pride and joy."
The marriage between Marvin and Anna was reportedly turbulent, leading to public spats. In order to bring some stability to their home life, Anna and Marvin adopted a little boy who was born on November 17, 1966. The boy was soon named after his adopted father (Marvin Pentz Gaye III). While the boy was said to have been naturally conceived by Anna and Marvin during Motown's public relations stories of the couple, Marvin himself would confirm the adoption in David Ritz's Marvin biography, "Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye." In later years, the identity of the mother was revealed as Denise Gordy.
In 1971, the couple moved to Hollywood. Two years later, the couple filed for legal separation with Gaye settling in with a young woman named Janis Hunter, with whom Gaye would have two children. In November 1975, Gordy filed for divorce. After nearly two years, the case was settled in Gordy's favor after Gaye agreed to remit a portion of his royalties off his next album to Gordy. The resulting album, "Here, My Dear," gave audiences a view of the marriage through Marvin's point of view. Released in December 1978, Gordy heard the album and threatened to sue Marvin for $5 million for invasion of privacy. Nothing came of this threat.
In the 1980s, Marvin and Anna reconciled as friends and Anna was on hand with Marvin at industry events following the release of his comeback album, "Midnight Love," in 1982. Anna also attended the Grammy Awards in 1983, where Marvin won two trophies. Marvin's death in 1984 devastated Anna; later she and Marvin's three children scattered most of his ashes near the Pacific Ocean while Anna kept a portion. When Marvin was honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Anna and Marvin Gaye III accepted on his behalf.
Gordy never remarried following her divorce. Her last public appearance came in June 2008 when she attended the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Heart Foundation event where brother Berry was being honored.
Gordy died on January 31, 2014, at the age of 92, following many years of declining health. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park – Hollywood Hills, Courts of Remembrance, Sanctuary of Enduring Protection, Private Family Room.
1. "Berry Gordy's Statement on the Passing of His Sister Anna Gordy Gaye." Eurweb.com.
2. "Anna Ruby Gordy Gaye (1921–2014)." Find-a-Grave.
3. Ritz, David (7 May 2003). Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. Basic Books. p. x. ISBN 978-0-306-81191-3.
4. Ritz 1991, p. 82.
5. Ritz 1991, pp. 100–101.
6. "snopes.com: Marvin Gaye Here, My Dear."
7. "In L.A.'s Other Marvin Case, It's Gaye Vs. Anna Gordy, With Brother Berry in the Middle." People.com. April 9, 1979.
8. "Marvin Gaye's Ex-Wife Anna Gordy Gaye Dead at 92." TMZ. January 31, 2014.