On this Day:

On May 21, 1971 Marvin Gaye’ eleventh album “What’s Going On” is released; considered the best album off all-time by critic surveys in Rolling Stone (2020); The Guardian (1997); and New Music Express (1985).

Marvin Pentz Gay Jr., who also spelled his surname as Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer and songwriter. He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an in-house session player and later as a solo artist with a string of successes, earning him the nicknames “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”.

Gaye’s Motown songs include “Ain’t That Peculiar”, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”, and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. Gaye also recorded duets with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell, and Diana Ross. During the 1970s, Gaye recorded the albums What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On and became one of the first artists in Motown to break away from the reins of a production company.

His later recordings influenced several contemporary R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo soul. He was a tax exile in Europe in the early 1980s; he released “Sexual Healing” in 1982, which won him his first two Grammy Awards on the album Midnight Love. Gaye’s last televised appearances were at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, where he sang “The Star-Spangled Banner”; Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever; and Soul Train.

On April 1, 1984, the eve of his 45th birthday, Gaye was shot and mortally wounded by his father, Marvin Gay Sr., at their house in Hancock Park, Los Angeles, after an argument. Gay Sr. later pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, and received a six-year suspended sentence and five years of probation. Many institutions have posthumously bestowed Gaye with awards and other honors including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and inductions into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Awards and honors

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 1987, declaring that Gaye “made a huge contribution to soul music in general and the Motown Sound in particular”. The page stated that Gaye “possessed a classic R&B voice that was edged with grit yet tempered with sweetness”. The page further states that Gaye “projected an air of soulful authority driven by fervid conviction and heartbroken vulnerability”. A year after his death, then-mayor of D.C., Marion Barry declared April 2 as “Marvin Gaye Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund Day” in the city. Since then, a non-profit organization has helped to organize annual Marvin Gaye Day Celebrations in the city of Washington.

A year later, Gaye’s mother founded the Marvin P. Gaye Jr. Memorial Foundation in dedication to her son to help those suffering from drug abuse and alcoholism; however she died a day before the memorial was set to open in 1987. Gaye’s sister Jeanne once served as the foundation’s chairperson. In 1988, a year after his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Gaye was inducted posthumously to the NAACP Hall of Fame. In 1990, Gaye received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1996, Gaye posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed three Gaye recordings, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “What’s Going On” and “Sexual Healing”, among its list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. American music magazine Rolling Stone ranked Gaye No. 18 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, sixth on their list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and number 82 on their list of the “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time”. Q magazine ranked Gaye sixth on their list of the “100 Greatest Singers”.

Three of Gaye’s albums – What’s Going On (1971), Let’s Get It On (1973), and Here, My Dear (1978) – were ranked by Rolling Stone on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. What’s Going On remains his largest-ranked album, reaching No. 6 on the Rolling Stone list and topped the NME list of the Top 100 Albums of All Time in 1985 and was later chosen in 2003 for inclusion by the Library of Congress to its National Recording Registry. In a revised 2020 Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, What’s Going On was listed as the greatest album of all time. In addition, four of his songs – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “What’s Going On”, “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing” – made it on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In 2005, Marvin Gaye was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.

Karen Bass and Gaye’s family at the dedication of the Marvin Gaye Post Office in Los Angeles in 2019.
In 2006, Watts Branch Park, a park in Washington that Gaye frequented as a teenager, was renamed Marvin Gaye Park. Three years later, the 5200 block of Foote Street NE in Deanwood, Washington, D.C., was renamed Marvin Gaye Way. In August 2014, Gaye was inducted to the official Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in its second class. In October 2015, the Songwriters Hall of Fame announced Gaye as a nominee for induction to the Hall’s 2016 class after posthumous nominations were included. Gaye was named as a posthumous inductee to that hall on March 2, 2016. Gaye was subsequently inducted to the Songwriters Hall on June 9, 2016. In July 2018, a bill by California politician Karen Bass to rename a post office in South Los Angeles after Gaye was signed into law by President Donald Trump (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Marvin Gaye walks into a room as says: “Hey everyone. What’s going on?”

Second, a Song:

Here is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” – Official Video 2019 from his Deluxe Edition/50th Anniversary courtesy of YouTube.com.  We hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.” – Marvin Gaye

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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