April 2: "The Prince of Soul," Marvin Gaye, was born on this date in 1939...

... he died one day before his 45th birthday on April 1, 1984.


Did you know?

Gaye played drums on several Motown records for artists including the Miracles, Mary Wells, The Contours and The Marvelettes. Gaye was also a drummer for early recordings by The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and Little Stevie Wonder. Gaye drummed on the Marvelettes hits, "Please Mr. Postman," "Playboy" and "Beechwood 4-5789" (a song he co-wrote). Later on, Gaye would be noted as the drummer in both the studio and live recordings of Wonder's "Fingertips" and as one of two drummers behind Martha and the Vandellas' landmark hit, "Dancing in the Street," which was another composition by Gaye.
Born in in Washington, D.C., Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. was a very popular singer-songwriter with a four-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 Records subsidiary of Motown Records. After starting off as a session drummer, Gaye ranked as the label's top-selling solo artist during the sixties.

Because of solo hits such as "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."

His work in the early and mid-1970s, including the albums What's Going On, Let's Get It On, and I Want You.  After a self-imposed European exile in the early eighties, Gaye returned on the 1982 Grammy-Award winning hit, "Sexual Healing" and the Midnight Love album before his death.

Gaye was shot by his father on April 1, 1984. He was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Gaye at number 6 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time, and ranked at number 18 on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" one of his most famous songs, voted #1 and greatest Motown song and his "What's Going On" is on the top five.

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Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye

Gaye's father was minister of a local Seventh-day Adventist Church for a time. By the time his eldest son was five, Marvin Sr. was bringing Gaye with him to church revivals to sing for church congregations. Gaye's father forced his children to avoid secular activities including sports and secular music.

Developing a love for music at an early age, Gaye was already playing instruments including piano and drums. In high school, Gaye discovered doo-wop and harder-edged rhythm and blues and began running away from home to attend R&B concerts and dance halls defying his father's rules.

  Gaye joined several groups in the D.C. area including the Dippers with his best friend, Johnny Stewart, brother of R&B singer Billy Stewart. He then joined the D.C. Tones. Gaye's relationship with his father led him to run away from home and join the United States Air Force. However, because of his hatred for authority, he began defying orders and skipped practices. Faking mental illness, he was discharged.

Upon returning to his hometown, Gaye worked as a dishwasher. Gaye still dreamed of a show-business career, and he and friend Reese Palmer formed a four-member group calling themselves the Marquees.

In 1958, the Marquees were discovered singing at a D.C. club by Bo Diddley, who signed them to Okeh Records, where they recorded "Wyatt Earp." It was moderately successful. Later that year Harvey Fuqua, founder and co-lead singer of the landmark doo-wop group The Moonglows, recruited them, to be "The New Moonglows." At Chess Records they recorded background vocals for Chess recording stars Chuck Berry and Etta James.

After "The Twelve Months of the Year," which featured a spoken monologue by Gaye, became a regional hit, the group issued "Mama Loochie," which was the first time Gaye sang lead on a record. Following a concert performance in Detroit, Gaye and other band members were arrested for possession of marijuana. Afterwards, Fuqua disbanded the group, but kept Gaye with him.

In 1960, Harvey Fuqua had met Gwen Gordy, and the couple formed two record labels, the self-named Harvey Records, and Tri-Phi Records. Gaye was signed to the former label, whose other members including a young David Ruffin and Junior Walker. Gaye provided drums for The Spinners' first hit, "That's What Girls Are Made For," which was released on Tri-Phi.

Gaye invited himself to Motown's annual Christmas party inside the label's Hitsville USA studios and played on the piano singing "Mr. Sandman." Impressed by Gaye's voice and piano playing,  Berry Gordy saw soon made arrangements to absorb Fuqua's labels into Motown. Gaye was assigned to Motown's Tamla division.

Gaye and Motown immediately clashed over material;  Gaye was set on singing standards and jazz rather than the usual rhythm and blues that fellow label mates were recording. Struggling to come to terms with what to do with his career, Gaye worked mainly behind the scenes, becoming a janitor, and also settled for session work playing drums on several recordings, which continued for several years.

One of Gaye's first professional gigs for Motown was as a road drummer for The Miracles. As a result, he developed a close friendship with the label's lead singer Smokey Robinson.

Before releasing his first single in May 1961, he altered his last name from "Gay" to "Gaye." In May 1961, Tamla released Gaye's first single, "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide." The single flopped as a national release. In June 1961, Motown issued Gaye's first album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye compromising Gaye's jazz interests with a couple of R&B songs. The album also flopped.

For Gaye's fourth single, the singer was inspired to write lyrics to a song after an argument with his wife. The song was "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" released in September 1962. The song became a hit on the Hot Rhythm and Blues Sides chart reaching number eight and eventually peaked at number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1963.

The album, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, was released in December 1962, the same month that Gaye's fifth single, "Hitch Hike," was released. That song reached number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100, bringing Gaye his first top forty single.


On April 1, 1984, Gaye's father fatally shot him after an argument that started after his parents squabbled over misplaced documents. Gaye attempted to intervene, and was killed by his father using a gun that Marvin Jr. had given him four months before.