From the archive blog: Marvin Gaye, 30 years on

On the 30th anniversary of his death, we look back at how the Guardian covered the soul legend's career and complex life

Marvin Gaye, 1976 - a picture from the past

On 1 April 1984, soul singer Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father, Marvin Gay Sr, a day shy of his 45th birthday.

Gaye was one of the biggest names in the Motown Records stable in the 1960s and 1970s, though the Guardian was slow to reflect this in its music coverage. Even his biggest hits - I Heard It Through The Grapevine spent three weeks at number one in the UK in 1969 - were ignored by the newspaper's reviewers.

By the late 70s, marriage breakdown (Gaye divorced Berry Gordy's sister Anna in 1977), drug addiction and tax issues had led to self-imposed exile in Europe. Despite the hardships, Gaye continued to tour, visiting London in June 1981 as part of an attempt to relaunch his career. The Guardian documented his efforts in this February 1981 profile.

Gaye made an inspiring comeback in 1982 with Midnight Love, which has since sold over six million copies. It featured the hit single Sexual Healing, which won Gaye his first Grammy in February 1983.

But success was shortlived. A year later, the Guardian's front page carried a tragic news in brief - 'Singer shot dead'.

It was followed a day later by an appreciation by Guardian music critic Mick Brown, who hailed him as a 'consummate soul music stylist but an enigmatic man.'

Gaye's father, Marvin Sr, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years' probation in November 1984.

It is only with hindsight that the Guardian has recognised Gaye's contribution to music. What's Going On, the 'unquenchable epitome of urban cool', was voted number one album of all time in a Guardian poll of music professionals in September 1997, and in 1998, when 1973 album Let's Get It On was re-released, the paper ran an extended profile of what it termed his 'supreme achievement'.


Katy Stoddard

The GuardianTramp

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