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Marvin Gaye was a soul singer-songwriter with Motown in the 1960s and 1970s. He produced his own records and often addressed controversial themes.
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Marvin Gaye was born on April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C. He sang in his father's church and in the Moonglows before signing with Motown. He recorded songs by Smokey Robinson before becoming his own producer on the protest album What's Going On. Gaye's later records developed his production style and yielded several hits. Gaye was killed in 1984 during a domestic dispute with his father.
"War is not the answer, because only love can conquer hate."
"If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else."
"Marvin Gaye is one of the greatest male voices of all time. So covering a Marvin Gaye song, especially one as quintessential as 'What's Going On,' I was a little hesitant in doing so. But I felt that it was one of those songs which spoke to a whole generation."
Singer Marvin Gaye, also known as the "Prince of Soul," was born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. (he added the "e" to his last name alter in life) in Washington, D.C., on April 2, 1939. Gaye was raised under the strict control of his father, Reverend Marvin Gay Sr., the minister at a local church, against a bleak backdrop of widespread violence in his neighborhood.
Throughout his childhood, Marvin Gaye often found peace in music, mastering the piano and drums at a young age. Until high school, his singing experience was limited to church revivals, but soon he developed a love for R&B and doo-wop that would set the foundation for his career. In the late 1950s, Gaye joined a vocal group called The New Moonglows.
The talented singer had a phenomenal range that spanned three vocal styles and he soon impressed the group's founder, Harvey Fuqua. It wasn't long before Gaye and Fuqua both came to the attention of Detroit music impresario Berry Gordy and were signed to Gordy's legendary Motown Records.
Gaye's first certified hit under his own name wouldn't come until 1962, but his early years at Motown were full of behind-the-scenes successes. He was a session drummer for Motown legends such as Little Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Marvelettes and Martha and the Vandellas. Showing his stripes as Motown's renaissance man, Gaye went on to break into the Top 40 for the first time on his own in 1962 with his solo single "Hitch Hike."
Throughout the 1960s, Gaye would show his immense range, churning out solo dance hits and romantic duets with hit-makers like Diana Ross and Mary Wells. "Can I Get a Witness" and "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" were some of Gaye's biggest hits of the period, the latter achieving its place as Motown's best-selling single of the 1960s.
For three high-flying years, Gaye and Tammi Terrell wowed the country with their soaring duet performances of songs like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You". Unfortunately, their reign as the Royal Couple of R&B ended when Terrell succumbed to a brain tumor in 1970. His beloved partner's death ushered in a dark period for the singer, who swore never to partner with another female vocalist and threatened to abandon the stage for good.
In 1970, inspired by escalating violence and political unrest over the Vietnam War, Gaye wrote the landmark song "What's Going On." Despite clashes with Motown over the song's creative direction, the single was released in 1971 and became an instant smash. Its success prompted Gaye to take even more risks, both musically and politically.
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Many African-Americans made their name performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, including Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. The roster of talented artists who made their careers after a successful amateur night at the Apollo grew so large, that the venue earned a reputation as the place to jump-start the career of an ambitious hopeful. Other performers, like Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, came to the theater after experiencing big professional success, adding further credibility to the historic New York concert hall. Explore the biographies of some of the more notable African-Americans who stepped out onto the Apollo stage, making entertainment history.
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