Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye (Courtesy photo)

As the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye鈥檚 death approaches, the legendary singer-songwriter known to all as the 鈥淧rince of Motown鈥 continues to live on in the form of record-breaking placement on the Billboard chart. 

During the latter part of January, Billboard reported that Gaye鈥檚 鈥淣umber 1s鈥 (first released in 2007 and then on vinyl in 2020) earned a number nine spot on Billboard鈥檚 Vinyl Albums chart. The vinyl album, a compilation of Gaye鈥檚 most popular singles, is also聽number 28 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales Chart, with more than 2,600 sales since its release.聽

This album is Gaye’s third posthumous vinyl release to date. 

All of his posthumous vinyl releases, including 鈥淲hat鈥檚 Going On鈥 and 鈥淵ou鈥檙e the Man,鈥 peaked at no. 2 and no. 4 on the Vinyl Albums chart, respectively. 鈥淲hat鈥檚 Going On,鈥  re-released on vinyl in 2021, lasted three consecutive weeks in its top spot. 

Such posthumous success, in part, speaks to what Motown founder Berry Gordy as Gaye鈥檚 resolve. 鈥淢arvin Gaye was so tough on me because鈥 he was so brilliant in ways that he didn鈥檛 even know [what] he was brilliant in,鈥 Gordy said, alluding to their widely documented differences over 鈥淲hat鈥檚 Going On.鈥 

The artist was born Marvin Gay Jr. on April 2, 1939, in 老澳门开奖网, D.C., at what was then known as Freedman鈥檚 Hospital in Northwest.聽

He lived in now-demolished public housing communities in Southwest and Northeast throughout most of his childhood. During his adolescent years, he attended the now-shuttered Spingarn High School and Cardozo High School, both in Northwest, before dropping out and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. 

Upon his general discharge from the U.S. Air Force, Gaye started his music career, eventually adding the 鈥渆鈥 at the end of his name before releasing his first single. 

After stints in a doo-wop group and as a drummer, Gaye signed with Motown Records in the early 1960s, where he initially found success as a songwriter. Throughout that decade, he recorded duet singles and albums with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, among others.聽

Terrell鈥檚 death from a brain tumor spurred Gaye鈥檚 depression, disillusionment with the industry and, in part, inspired an attempt to play professional football with the Detroit Lions. That vision, however, never manifested.聽

In the early 1970s, against Gordy鈥檚 wishes, Gaye recorded and secured the release of 鈥淲hat鈥檚 Going On,鈥 inspired by The Four Tops鈥 Renaldo 鈥淥bie鈥 Benson, who witnessed police brutality at an anti-war protest in Berkeley, California. 

His 1971 album, also titled 鈥淲hat鈥檚 Going On,鈥 had three top-10 singles, including the title track, 鈥淢ercy Me (The Ecology)鈥 and 鈥淚nner City Blues.鈥 It also sold more than one million records, a first for Gaye at the time. 

Throughout the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s, Gaye conducted tours and spent some time in Europe. After leaving Motown, Gaye recorded 鈥淢idnight Love鈥 (1982) while living abroad. That album included the single 鈥淪exual Healing,鈥 which became Gaye鈥檚 most popular song to date. 

In his final years, Gaye appeared on a Motown 25th anniversary special and conducted a 51-city tour. He also continued along in a drug-induced spiral that would remain a challenge until his death.   

In 1984, on the day before his 45th birthday, Gaye was shot and killed by his father, Marvin Gay, Sr., in their Los Angeles home during an altercation between Gay, Sr. and Gaye鈥檚 mother, Alberta Gay. In the decades following his death, experts, colleagues, and fans described, and continue to describe, Gaye as a performer who transcended soul, gospel, pop and jazz. 

Several artists, including Stevie Wonder and Frankie Beverly, have since followed in Gaye鈥檚 stead, citing him as a primary influence. At Gaye鈥檚 funeral, Wonder sang, 鈥淟ighting Up The Candles,鈥 a song he had reportedly written with Gaye in mind. 

One year later, Wonder reflected on the impact of Gaye鈥檚 life and death, the latter of which people initially thought of as an April Fool鈥檚 joke.

鈥淲e are not the controllers of life,鈥 . 鈥淎nd that鈥檚 why people need to stop doing that, trying to control life. But I was 鈥 it was just painful for me. And as much as we say, 鈥榃ell we鈥檝e got his music. We鈥檝e got their art, we got their this, we got their that鈥 鈥 I would鈥檝e loved to have some more of him, and them.鈥

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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