Born Marvin Pentz Gay Jnr. on 2 April 1939 in Washington, DC, USA, Gaye was named after his father, a minister in the Apostolic Church. In the style of his hero Sam Cooke, he added the "e" to his surname as an adult.
Marvin Gaye had a hugely successful career spanning several decades. He started out as a session musician and a some-time songwriter for a host of popular Motown acts, coordinating Martha & The Vandella's 'Dancing in the Street' in the early Sixties.
Gaye remained Motown's top solo male artist throughout the Sixties with hits including 'I Heard it Through The Grapevine' and 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' (with Tammi Terrell).
By The Seventies, Gaye was writing songs with a more socio-political slant, producing his own albums and taking complete control of his career, a move that rewrote the relationship between artists and recording company forever.
The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye's work reached its boiling point with 1973's Let's Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded (for that time). It became the most commercially successful effort of his career, and the title cut became his second number one hit.
Let's Get It On also marked another significant shift in Gaye's lyrical outlook, moving him from the political arena to a deeply personal, even insular stance that continued to define his subsequent work.
His tragic death in 1984, shot by his clergyman father, robbed the world of an artist that was truly great. His music inspired and continues to inspire, an incredibly diverse range of contemporary artists to this day.