Singer-songwriter-producer-arranger Marvin Gaye evolved from one of Motown's most prominent hit-makers into one of pop music's most significant auteurs, crafting such groundbreaking albums as “What's Going On” and “Let's Get It On” before his personal demons finally caught up with him.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., he was regularly abused by his minister father, and music provided an escape. Gaye was singing with the Moonglows when he was spotted by Berry Gordy, who signed him to his Motown label in 1961. He played drums on sessions and wrote songs for other artists, finally reaching the Top 10 himself in 1963 with “Pride and Joy.” He was a consistent chart presence from then on, both solo and in duets with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell and Diana Ross. In 1971 “What's Going On” became both a commercial success and a landmark in pop creativity, setting the stage for the artistic growth of label mate Stevie Wonder, among many others.
Marital, drug and tax difficulties mounted, and Gaye struggled in the late '70s, making a notable comeback in 1982 with “Sexual Healing.” His last public appearance was his eccentric, controversial performance of the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. On the day before his 45th birthday, his father fatally shot him after an argument. Gaye was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.