Marvin Pentz Gay Jr., more commonly known as Marvin Gaye, was born on April 2, 1939, in Washington, D.C. His father, Marvin Gay Sr., was a church minister and his mother, Alberta Gay, was a domestic worker. Little Marvin was the third child of six. He had two sisters, Jeanne and Zeola, and three brothers, Michael, Frankie, and Antwaun.
Gay started singing in church when he was four years old. Although he developed a love of singing, he wasn’t encouraged to pursue it professionally until after a performance at a school play.
In high school Marvin joined several doo-wop vocal groups, including the Dippers and the D.C. Tones. Unable to tolerate his father’s abusive tendencies, however, in 1956 he dropped out of high school and enlisted in the United States Air Force as a basic airman. He was later discharged after his sergeant stated that he refused to follow orders.
After returning to the States, Gay and good friend Reese Palmer formed the vocal quartet, the Marquees. In 1960 the group disbanded and Gay began playing drums on several Tri-Phi releases. Gay performed at Motown president Berry Gordy's house during the holiday season in 1960. It was after that that Gordy signed him with Motown.
Upon releasing his first single in May of 1961, “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide,” Gay changed his surname. He added the “e” to the end of “Gay” to distinguish himself from his father and avoid sexuality jokes.
His first album release, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, did not sell well. He therefore relied heavily on drumming for $5 weekly with the Miracles and the Marvelettes.
Still working with Motown Records, Gaye eventually released his hit solo single, “Hitch Hike,” which went on to break the top 40. He then went on to release songs like “Can I Get A Witness” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” is still one of Motown’s top selling singles. In fact, it is the Number One selling song in Motown history.
In 1972, “Let’s Get it On” became Gaye’s second Number One Billboard hit. In 1977, “Got to Give Up” made its way to the Number One spot on Billboard’s chart.
After two decades at Motown, in 1982, Gaye signed with CBS's Columbia Records and began to work on his last album, Midnight Love. The lead single from that album, "Sexual Healing,” became a huge comeback hit for the R&B star and earned him his first two Grammy Awards and an American Music Award for Favorite Soul Single.
Returning home after touring, Gaye met again his violent past with his father. On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gay Sr. shot and killed his son. Even so, Gaye left a legacy for all R&B artists, and three years after his death, in 1987, Marvin Gaye Jr. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
(http://www.biography.com/people/marvin-gaye-9307988#death-and-legacy; http://oldies.about.com/od/motownmusic/tp/The-Top-10-Motown-Hits-Of-All-Time.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Gaye)