The Soul of Marvin Gaye


On a solemn day in the Spring of 1939, many were observing the humble entry of Jesus Christ’s arrival centuries ago. The palm symbolized the victory and triumph of Christ, as well as a welcoming invitation of renewal and peace. People revered the power of God within spiritual and physical realms across the globe. Specifically at Freedman’s hospital, Alberta Gray ushered in this adoration and awe of Jesus as she bonded with her baby boy: Marvin Gaye. From this fact, there is no doubt that God had instilled the dynamic creativity into the depths of Gaye’s soul purposefully on such a special day. His father, a Pentecostal minister, mentioned that he had even prophesied the nobility of his son’s future before anyone else. Unknowingly, a joyful day would somehow turn into a day of mourning for this family 45 years later. 

As a young boy, Marvin played the drums and the organ in Marvin Gay Sr.’s church choir. Years later, he decided to leave for Michigan to join the Marquees group with Harvey Fuqua. His father disagreed with his lifestyle, but Gaye knew the spotlight was where he belonged. Doo-wop was within the field of expertise at the earliest parts of his career. Gaye worked with Harvey & The New Moonglows as first lead solo before signing to Motown in 1961. (The song featured to the right is tribute to Gaye’s future wife, Berry Gordy’s sister.)

Berry Gordy teamed up with Gaye, making him a sessions drummer and soloist for Motown Records label, which was black-owned. After marrying Anna, who was Gordy’s sister, he became solely focused on performing as a soloist for Motown. His genres of music ranged from swing jazz into rhythm and blues. R&B became Gaye’s gold mine to fortune and a path to speak to his audience authentically after the hit single “Stubborn Kind of Fellow.” The same stood for his song “Ain’t That Peculiar,” which peaked at number one on Billboard’s charts in 1965. The song incorporated elements of pop and R&B. The singer also had his last child, out of 3, in 1965 with his wife. 

As Motown began to grow, Gaye had the opportunity to work with other artists at the label. This sparked his desire to partner with Tammi Terrell. A former member of James Brown revue, Terrell flourished along the side of her duet partner Gaye. There is no evidence that they had something, but magnetism was quite evident between the two as the music would play. They would soon be each other’s twin flames. Their first album United was a global sensation, many of the songs produced by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol. Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, a husband-wife team, were creatives behind the brilliance of Motown branded songs. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” also topped Billboard’s pop and R&B charts in 1967. This does not negate the gospel and soulfulness clearly embedded in the songs. 

Terrell devastatingly passed away in 1970. This left Gaye without a choice to become a soloist. He not only lost his duet partner but possibly the love of his life forever. In an eager search to find himself through his mourning, Gaye found a new relationship with gospel as he displayed his admiration for God. The end of his duet era called for acceptance and renewal, which would set the stage for Gaye’s revolutionary contribution to R&B in the next few years. 

The introspective nature of Gaye was not unseen from his loved ones, but the world soon began to see how devoted he was to speaking his truth at all times. “What’s Going On” discussed the disparities of the Vietnam War, especially since his brother had been drafted. Let’s Get It On Album allowed him to mold the message in his music solely on his worries, fears, and greatest pleasures: love. 

Marvin Gaye tapped into his production skills, as he helped The Originals with multiple songs. Doo-woop clearly behind the eloquent melody of the tracks. 



The soloist had no problem embracing the full parts of himself: happy, sad, excited, somber. He also had no problem using his talents and creative genius to enter into any genre at the time period; disco and funk was just that. “Got to Give it Up” went number one in 1977. 


By the end of his musical career, Marvin Gaye battled with addiction, finances, and no closure from his past lovers. He left Motown to join Columbia Records. “Sexual Healing” was electronic in some ways with R&B. He teamed with Odell Brown, who played on keyboard as a former jazz organist. As he had nowhere to truly be grounded after his time in Ostend, he moved to reside with his parents in Los Angeles. In 1984, his father killed him during an argument in their home. 


(1996) Grammy Winner, Lifetime Achievement Award

(1991) Star on the Walk of Fame, Recorder 

(1988) NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame 

(1987) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Trophy, Performer 

(1983) Grammar Winner, “Sexual Healing” Best R&B Vocal Performance 

(1978) Grammy Nominee, “Got To Give It Up” Best R&B Vocal Performance 

(1968) Grammy Nominee, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental 

By being human and having a soul, there is joy and mourning. Within Holy week, Christ was praised and adored in his confident human flesh, while internally fearing betrayal and hurt of the ones nearest to him. He ultimately feared mortality, which was vigorously tied to his mission on Earth. With God, Jesus had the strength to carry out his fulfilled purpose, no matter the cost. The polarities of Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday within the Bible illustrate the omniscient power of God in his own son’s life, as well as Marvin Gaye’s. The loving soul of Marvin Gaye, which graced the earth with spunkiness and delicacy through music, came from God himself. As we continue to listen to, celebrate with, and create fellowship with others from Gaye’s music; We should see God in ourselves. We should see love. We should see devotion. We should see the deepest parts of our souls. I’m sure he did.  (Gaye pictured with his 3 children to the left.)

“Marvin Gaye: Motown Museum: Home of Hitsville U.S.A.” Motown Museum, 28 Jan. 2021,

“Marvin Gaye Biography, Songs, & Albums.” AllMusic,

“For Marvin Gaye Life Through Song Goes On.” NY Times.

“Marvin Gaye: The Power and the Glory.” The Village Voice, 22 Oct. 2020,

Harrington, Richard. “Marvin Gaye’s Eternal Question.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Feb. 2001,

Cahill, Tim. “The Spirit, the Flesh and Marvin Gaye.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 25 June 2018,

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