In many ways, Marvin Gaye is the quintessential soul musician, a man who quite literally reshaped an entire genre around himself and his voice. Before he came the blueprints were there, but it was he who actually got up and built it. The son of a minister, Marvin Gay subsequently added an E to his surname in homage to his hero, Sam Cooke, and almost immediately began to match Cooke in talent and in acclaim. Following an astounding series of singles for Motown, Gaye really hit his stride with the magnificent, sophisticated chart-topper, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). He subsequently teamed up with female vocalists, Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and particularly with Tammi Terrell, before returning to his solo career in 1968 with the epochal, I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Devastated by Terrell's early death in 1970, Gaye withdrew only to return a year later with an album that would change everything: What's Going On. An incredible mixture of spiritual and secular tracks, the album's socio-political lyricism was matched by its hugely influential musical blend of jazz, classical string arrangements and soul. This masterpiece was subsequently matched by its earthy, overtly sexual counterpart, Let's Get It On, just two years later. He subsequently struggled with drugs, a bitter divorce and resultant money problems for the remainder of the decade. But remarkably, Gaye made a stunning return to form in 1982, after releasing the pioneering electro-soul single, Sexual Healing. Vulnerable to bouts of crippling depression, Gaye increasingly got into arguments with his father, and after a particularly violent one, was shot dead by him on 1st April 1984.
Followers: D'Angelo, R. Kelly, Rod Stewart, Hall & Oates
Influenced By: Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles
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