Drummer Cafe


Serving drummers and percussionists since 1996.

  Marvin Gaye

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Friday, April 02, 2021 (This event repeats every year)

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Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye, born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. on April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C, was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known for shaping the 60s Motown sound as an in-house session drummer and later as a solo artist. Some of his hits include "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", and duet recordings with Mary Wells, Kim Weston, and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles "Prince of Motown" and "Prince of Soul."

In 1960, after some success as a singer with The Marquees (later known as Harvey and the New Moonglows), Gaye relocated to Detroit and signed with Tri-Phi Records as a session drummer; he played drums on several Tri-Phi releases. That same year, Marvin found himself performing at Motown president Berry Gordy's house during the holiday season. Gordy was impressed with Marvin, sought to buy his contract with Tri-Phi Records, and signed him with Motown subsidiary Tamla.

When Gaye signed with Tamla, he was actually interested in pursuing a career as a performer of jazz music and standards; he had no interest or desire to become an R&B performer. Gaye was teased about his surname, Gay, with people jokingly asking if Marvin was gay. Marvin silenced the sexuality rumors by changing his surname — adding an e — from Gay to Gaye.

Gaye released his first single, "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide", in May 1961, with the album The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, following a month later. Gaye's initial recordings failed commercially, so he spent most of that year doing session work, making $5 a week ($40 in 2016 dollars) to play drums for the likes of The Miracles, The Marvelettes, and blues artist Jimmy Reed. You can hear Marvin's drumming on such hits as "Please Mr. Postman" (1961) by The Marvelettes, "Dancing in the Street" (1964) co-written by Marvin Gaye, recorded by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and two singles by a very young Steve Wonder, "I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues" (1962) and "Fingertips, Part 2" (1963).

Marvin Gaye died on April 1, 1984 in Los Angeles, California; he was 44. While talking with his mother around 12:38 p.m. on April 1, 1984, Marvin's father, Marvin Gay Sr., walked up and shot Gaye twice — in the heart and on his left shoulder respectively, the latter shot taken at point-blank range.