Wednesday, April 1, 2009

25 Years Ago Today: Marvin Gaye Shot and Killed

Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer-songwriter and instrumentalist. 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 subsidiary of Motown Records. After a year as a session drummer, Gaye ranked as the label's top-selling solo artist during the sixties.

Due to solo hits including "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".
Notable for fighting the hit-making but restrictive Motown process in which performers and songwriters and producers were kept separate, Gaye proved with albums like his 1971 'What's Going On' and his 1973 'Let's Get It On' that he was able to produce music without relying on the system, inspiring fellow Motown artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to do the same.

His mid-1970s work including the "Let's Get It On" and "I Want You" albums helped influence the quiet storm, urban adult contemporary and slow jam genres. After a self-imposed European exile in the late seventies, Gaye returned on the 1982 Grammy-winning hit, "Sexual Healing" and the 'Midnight Love' album before his death. He was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2008, the American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Gaye #6 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time, and ranked #18 on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.


In March 1983, Gaye gave his final performance in front of his old mentor and label for Motown 25, performing "What's Going On". He then embarked on a U.S. tour to support his album. The tour, ending in August 1983, was plagued by health problems and Gaye's bouts with depression, and fear over an attempt on his life.

When the tour ended, he isolated himself by moving into his parents' house. He threatened to commit suicide several times after bitter arguments with his father. On April 1, 1984, one day before his 45th birthday, Gaye's father fatally shot him after an argument that started after his parents squabbled over misplaced business documents. Gaye attempted to intervene, and was killed by his father using a gun he had given him four months before. Marvin Sr. was sentenced to six years of probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter. Charges of first-degree murder were dropped after doctors discovered Marvin Sr. had a brain tumor. Spending his final years in a retirement home, he died of pneumonia in 1998

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