Marvin Gaye broke down barriers singing about the body and the soul, social consciousness and sexual politics. One of music's most expressive singers, a deeply talented producer and a superb songwriter of both the romantic and the revolutionary, his voice spoke for a generation. Now legendary, Marvin continues to speak across the decades.
Marvin was deeply affected by his brother Frankie's stories from the Vietnam War, and turned to music to express his discomfort with a world in turmoil. Out poured the 1971 album What's Going On, which explored issues from poverty and discrimination to the environment, drug abuse, political corruption and the war, forever changing the sound and substance of soul and pop music. Three singles from the LP were #1 R&B and Top 10 pop: "What's Going On," "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." Gaye's first self-production, it was the last great Motown album recorded in Detroit before the label's move to Los Angeles.
In his career, Marvin Gaye earned 18 pop Top 10s, three of which peaked at no. 1, and 38 R&B Top 10s; 13 of those hit no. 1, tying him for first in that category with Michael Jackson. In 1987, he was among the second group of artists honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But his legacy goes beyond numbers and honors. He led the way for intensely personal artistic self-expression in the commercial world of modern pop music and elevated the impact of soul music as an agent for social change. Intimate, raw and brutally honest, his songs revealed a mixture of grit and sweetness, confidence and vulnerability, spirituality and sensuality.