Prince of Motown

The SRO Show – Marvin Gaye

Prince of Motown

Produced by Lawrence Standifer Stevens

Written by Joseph E. Casanova



Though he started out wanting to record standards, like Nat “King” Cole and Billy Eckstine, Marvin Gaye went on to become an R&B innovator. 

From concept albums like What’s Going On? to romantic collections like Midnight Love, Marvin Gaye remains one of the most innovative and talented artists of all time.

Following his comeback in 1982 with Sexual Healing, Gaye died at his home in Los Angeles two years later.

He received numerous posthumous honors including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Originally pursuing a career as a jazz singer, Gaye released his first R&B album in 1961, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye with its lead single, Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide.

The project failed commercially so Gaye spent most of the year playing studio session drums for the Miracles, Marvelettes and blues artist Jimmy Reed.

He also honed his skills as a songwriter with the hit, Beechwood 4-5789 for the Marvelettes.

However, it was his second LP, That Stubborn Kinda Fellow, which established him as a rising star, giving him his first Billboard pop hit, Pride and Joy.

In 1964, Gaye started recording with Motown label mates Mary Wells and Kim Weston, the latter known for It Takes Two.

But he found greater success with duet partner Tammi Terrell for such standards as Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and You’re All I Need to Get By, both penned by legendary composers Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson.

His recording of I Heard It Through the Grapevine yielded his first #1 pop hit in late 1968, becoming the label’s biggest song of the decade.

A member of the Four Tops, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, inspired the idea for What’s Going On? after a police incident at an anti-war rally in California in 1971.

Berry Gordy refused to release it for fear of its political overtones. The song topped the R&B charts within a month and reached #2 on Billboard, selling over two million copies. Gaye’s What’s Going On? sold over a million copies and brought the conceptual format to the rhythm and blues genre.

Let’s Get It On, co-written by Gaye and producer Ed Townsend, was originally recorded as a gospel number, then a protest song, and finally turned into a funky love anthem in 1973. The tune became his second #1 pop single and the album reached triple-platinum status.

After touring Europe in 1977, Gaye issued Live at the London Palladium, which sold over two million copies on the strength of the studio track and chart-topping Got to Give It Up.

Even though the Prince of Motown has been gone over 30 years, we still have to ask. . . Marvin, what’s goin’ on?