You might have already noticed that the word Motown has been frequently mentioned in my previous inspirational singers’ articles if you’ve read some of them recently . I know it’s early, but let me segue a bit. Motown Records is one of the pivotal and historical labels in the country.
It’s founded by Berry Gordy Jr. of African American descent. It’s one of the business entities in the United States that helped black artists have an outlet to get their songs heard in public.
Berry Gordy isn’t just your average executive who pushed papers. He’s also a prolific songwriter himself who wrote songs sung by his talents that we now enjoy. He penned music for the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and today’s “guest,” Marvin Gaye.
The Whipped And Battered
Marvin Gaye’s parents were a church minister, Marvin Gay Sr., and a domestic worker, Alberta Gay. At an early age, his father took him to church and had him join the choir at their church. His love for singing immediately blossomed. His parents supported him to make it a career after his elementary days were over and before he entered junior high.
However, it wasn’t a fine-and-dandy story that we would’ve expected. Just like Michael Jackson, Marvin’s father was as cruel. He often ruthlessly beats and whips Marvin for any petty errors he committed. He couldn’t have survived the trauma if his mother stopped caring and supporting him as a teenager .
Marvin joined his school glee club and became its lead and star. Because of circumstances, he needed to leave the school and moved somewhere else. In the club’s stead, he joined doo-wop groups, a kind of rhythm and blues centric band.
He could’ve stayed with the groups, but his father’s brutality worsened. This made Marvin decide to enlist in the air force, but quickly got discharged because he wasn’t suited for it since he’s not the guy who wants to be ordered around. After coming back from the service, he tried to form a group multiple times and break out in the industry, but he failed repeatedly.
The Prince of Motown
His career got some tailwind when he had the chance to perform in front of Berry Gordy. The latter immediately offered him a contract (under Tamla, a Motown subsidiary).
After this event, he released hit records after another. It also took him around the states. He met and got associated with other famous acts such as Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and most notably, Tammi Terrell. I personally adore Tammi and Marvin’s duets, particularly the song Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. I’m listening to it right now to reminisce the old days while I write this lines.
It’s just unfortunate that their performances were put to a complete stop. Tammi was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She died at age 24. Marvin was distressed over her death. She became a very close friend to him. And this led to temporarily quitting the recording business and trying football instead. Unfortunately, teams wouldn’t accept him because they didn’t want an injury to conclude his bright singing career.
Resurfacing And Controversial Songs
Following recovery from his depression, Marvin has gone back to recording after witnessing the Berkeley anti-war rally and the police brutalities. This pushed him to write the song What’s Going On, which primarily talked about the event he witnessed.
This song created a rift between Marvin and Motown as the song seemed too political. However, Gaye was too stubborn to just give way and throw the song in the bin. After going on strike, he had full control with the release of the song and the others that were compounded in the album having the same name as the What’s Going On single.
The album was a commercial success. Aside from the musical integrity of the mixes Marvin made and the lyrics he wrote, Marvin performed his best in this one. This led the industry to tag Marvin Gaye as the Prince of Soul.
Let’s Get It On
After that album, Berry still didn’t like what happened. It was most probably because of Berry that Marvin’s songs style and context took a sudden shift. He released the album Let’s Get It On, which contained one of these most iconic songs: Let’s Get It on.
I’m half expecting that most of you know Marvin Gaye because of it. I won’t be bashful to say that this song is often used when things get kinky in movie scenes. His subsequent songs and albums would mostly take this direction: focusing on romance and sensuality.
Marvin tried to pacify the fight between his father and mother, but things got heated and physical with his father. Marvin Gay Sr. shot Marvin Gaye two times: one through the heart and another on the shoulder. The shots were fatal, and he died on April 1, 1984.
Most of his songs are popularly being used with great frequency in the entertainment industry. And as of now, he holds the 13th place in Forbes’ list of top-earning dead celebrities. His family even won a recent copyright case against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke because of using parts of Gaye’s song Got To Give Up in the controversial song Blurred Lines.
Aside from his songs’ presence in the industry, Marvin Gaye is mostly admired by singers because of his wide range: four octaves. Man. That’s extraordinary. He also had a versatile singing style ranging from raspy, smooth, thin, and thick. He can easily transition his style from gospel to rhythm and blues to soul.
From an amateur singer’s perspective, it’s excellent to use Marvin Gaye as your subject of musical inspiration. He had three distinct styles that would definitely allow you to become as versatile as him. I highly recommend that you take a shot on listening to his three main albums to get accustomed to those styles: How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You, What’s Going On, and Let’s Get It On.
Two of the best traits you can emulate from this man are stubbornness and persistence. After getting discharged from the army, he didn’t get his break right away. He formed bands after bands trying to get his music known.
He didn’t get tired of it. Until one day, he met Berry. If he didn’t persist, he wouldn’t met the guy who will help him shape his future.