One of Motown Records' most successful artists, Gaye was married to Anna Gordy, who was the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy. The singer met Anna in 1960 after the disbandment of the Doo-Wop group Harvey and the Moonglows led him to follow leader Harvey Fuqua to Detroit. He began working as a drummer for Anna Records, a short-lived label run by the Gordy sisters (Anna and Gwen) along with songwriter Billy Davis.
Although Anna was 17 years older than Gaye, the pair married in June of 1963, a month after the singer released his first top-10 single, "Pride and Joy."
The marriage ended in divorce, and Gaye named his 1976 album Here, My Dear after agreeing that royalties from the album would be used to pay alimony to Anna. Even though Gaye knew he would not see any money from the album, he still gave it his best effort.
Early in his career, Gaye was teamed with female Motown artists including Mary Wells and Kim Weston. It was his match with Terrell, however, that made magic. The duo recorded several hits together, often penned by the songwriting team Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" and "Your Precious Love." Ashford recalled the duo's chemistry in an interview with Tavis Smiley: "The two of them together, that blend, I mean, it was like ice cream and cookies or whatever you want to call it, you know, just a good blend." Little did they know, their last concert performance together would be at a Homecoming celebration at the Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia in 1967. Terrell collapsed onstage as Gaye rushed to catch her, a result of a brain tumor that would take her life three years later and leave Gaye devastated. According to John Pumilia's article "Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: Perfect Together," Gaye recalled: "I think maybe what scared me the most was that I was so angered by the senselessness of it all. I had to accept that it was God's will, but it was difficult to understand at the time. I grieved for years, and the fact that deep down inside I hated performing with somewhat of a passion made it even easier for me to stop. After taking time off, I developed a real fear of performing and it was even more difficult to come back."
One of his last public performances was singing the US national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star game. At the time, performers were expected to give a restrained and traditional performance when singing the national anthem, but Gaye delivered an emotional performance similar to other songs he would sing in concert. This caused some controversy, but the idea of personalizing the national anthem caught on, and singers often add personal touches to the song even today.
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