Personalities | Marvin Gaye | Sixties | Rock

(Vocals, 1939–84)

Gaye was a soul giant whose career spanned his genre’s transition from pop entertainment to social conscience and personal exploration. He signed with Berry Gordy’s Motown label in 1961, where his recordings revealed a strong tenor voice with a huge span – three octaves – on songs ranging from R&B mod anthem ‘Can I Get A Witness’ to the soulful heartache of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’.

He charted with duets too, notably alongside Tammi Terrell. Gaye grieved for a year after Terrell’s tragic death, emerging to negotiate artistic control of his work and release 1971’s What’s Going On, routinely regarded as the greatest soul album ever, taking a radical, mature new direction addressing political and social issues. Its follow-up Let’s Get It On (1973) dealt equally powerfully with more intimate concerns.

Although his creative light never dimmed, his later life was blighted by tax issues, failed marriages, drug dependency and depression. In 1984, his father shot him dead during a family argument.

Styles & Forms | Sixties | Rock
Personalities | Gerry & The Pacemakers | Sixties | Rock

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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