Perhaps one of Motown’s most versatile performers, Marvin Gaye joined Motown as a drummer, after a stint with Harvey and the Moonglows in the 1950s. He did it all: balladeer, musician, one-half of the most famous vocal duo in R&B history (with Tammi Terrell), and, finally, an artist who used his music to address the serious issues of his day.
His first Motown hit, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow,” was released in 1961. It was followed by a string of successes, including “Hitchhike,” “Can I Get a Witness” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” He later teamed with Motown artist Kim Weston to record “It Takes Two;” Diana Ross on the album Diana & Marvin, which included the Top 20 hit, “My Mistake (Was to Love You);” and, most famously, with Tammi Terrell. He and Tammi scored major hits with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Your Precious Love,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” among others.
Marvin Gaye’s 1968 recording of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” sold four million copies and was the top-selling Motown single at the time. During the early 1970s, Marvin assumed greater creative control over his career, starting with 1971’s What’s Going On. Described in Rolling Stone, the album was heralded as “the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices.” He went on to record and produce the groundbreaking albums, Let’s Get It On and I Want You, in the 1970s.
Nominated for twelve Grammy Awards over the course of his career, Marvin won two in 1982 for the single “Sexual Healing.” Marvin is ranked sixth by Rolling Stone magazine on its list of the Greatest Singers of All Time and 18th among the Greatest Artists of All Time. He was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
In 1970, Marvin Gaye briefly dreamed of leaving his singing career to become a professional football player. Unfortunately for Marvin (but fortunately for the world) his try-out for the Detroit Lions was unsuccessful. He completed and released the groundbreaking album What’s Going On the following year.