Marvin Gaye and his Girls
The Women who Influenced Marvin’s Life and Works
“Marvin Gaye and His Girls” is the title of a compilation album, released in 1969, showcasing Marvin’s duets with Mary Wells, Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell. This post is not a review of said album; it is a brief study of how Marvin’s life and works were influenced by the women who touched his life.
Left to right: Marvin; Janis; Alberta; Marvin Sr; in front Marvin III.
The biggest, and warmest, influence on Marvin Gaye was his mother, Alberta. She gave him love that was missing from Marvin’s tempestuous relationship with his father, Marvin Pentz Gay Sr; a loveless father – son relationship that would tragically result in Marvin’s untimely death.
Marvin’s first wife, Anna Ruby Gordy was seventeen years older than Marvin; being his boss's sister had obvious advantages, but later as their marriage began to fall apart, Marvin felt, unjustifiably as it happened, that Berry Gordy would be influenced by his sister and try to end Marvin’s Motown career. Although they were unable to have children of their own, Marvin and Anna adopted their son, Marvin III in 1965.
Anna was the prime mover in getting Marvin to record and perform during his formative years as an entertainer. Marvin’s earlier hits, such as, “Pride and Joy” were purely him singing to his wife. “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” was based on Anna citing his stubbornness.
While recording the “Let’s Get It On” album, Marvin was introduced to family friends of Ed Townsend, co-writer and co-producer, who brought their seventeen year old daughter, Janis Hunter to the studio. It was love at first sight; ironically a seventeen year age difference in the opposite direction to Marvin and Anna, did not stop a relationship flourishing. Marvin later dedicated his “I Want You” album to Janis.
Janis moved in with Marvin and the couple had two children: daughter Nona (born September 4, 1974) and son Frankie (born November 16, 1975). After a long and painful divorce with Anna; Marvin dedicated his album, “Here My Dear”, along with his advance and royalties, as alimony to Anna, Marvin and Janis married in 1977. The couple divorced in 1981.
Marvin’s younger sister Zeola has upset Janis, along with Marvin’s children, including Anna and Marvin’s adopted son, Marvin III, by producing a play entitled “My Brother Marvin”, claiming it to be based on newly revealed journals kept by Marvin’s parents in the 1980s.
Janis has labelled the play, which opens to the sound of a gunshot, exploitative and ghoulish. The play features none of Marvin’s music; something that prospective theatre goers might reasonably expect to hear during a play claiming to be about the man.
It seems controversy continues to surround Marvin Pentz Gay II nearly thirty years after the singer’s death. Marvin himself added the ‘e’ at the end of his surname in an attempt to distance himself from his father, who administered the fatal wound on April 1st 1984.
Paul Forrest will be featuring tracks from Marvin Gaye in his radio show, "Soul Galore" on Wolfman Radio Saturday 5th April 4 pm UK time (11 am Eastern, 10 am Central, 8 am Pacific).