Artists - Marvin Gaye

 
Artist Biography

Now part of the Motown family, Marvin was a session drummer (one of his first professional gigs was as a drummer for Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and wrote songs for other Motown acts, including the hit “Dancing in the Street.” By 1966, the year when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, Gaye was already an established star on the R & B charts. After some initial struggles, he had finally found success in 1962 with “Stubborn Kind of Fellow”, which peaked at number eight on the Billboard R&B Top 40 Chart. Releasing one hit opened the floodgates for Gaye, who subsequently charted with “Hitch Hike,” “Pride and Joy,” and “Can I Get a Witness.”

But the aim for Gaye’s sixth studio album was a bit different – Gaye wanted to show that he could become an album-oriented artist as well as a teen idol and hit maker. The result was The Moods of Marvin Gaye, released by Motown Records in 1966. To promote the new album and give his fans a chance to see the more artistic side of him, Marvin agreed to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show on June 19th, 1966.

The performance marks the only time that Gaye graced the show with his talents, a shame considering how gifted of an artist he was. Marvin had already reached #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart with two songs from his album, “I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar”, yet he opted to not sing either of those tracks. Instead, in an effort to showcase himself as an album-oriented artist, he chose to sing “Take This Heart of Mine”, and the performance launched the song from relative obscurity to #16 on the Billboard R&B Chart.

Gaye, who added the “e” onto the end of his last name in a rumored tribute to Cooke, sported a dapper suit and bowtie and sang with an infectious charm that must have reminded viewers of Sam Cooke on The Ed Sullivan Show a decade earlier. Like Cooke, Gaye’s pure singing voice and captivating smile allowed him to be incredibly popular with fans of all ages, from adults who had grown up listening to the Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, to the teenagers who were quickly gravitating towards the sound and soul of Motown.

Marvin went on to achieve enormous commercial success throughout his career, and displayed his versatility as an artist. He had big hits with overtly erotic songs like “Let’s Get it On” and “Sexual Healing” and also with socially-conscious songs like “What’s Going On.” Both his life and career were cut tragically short in 1984 when his father, a preacher, fatally shot him in his own home. Even after his death, the accolades continue. He was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Rolling Stone magazine named him #6 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time, and he has made the Billboard chart five times posthumously.

Marvin Gaye’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show provides us with a glimpse into his early career and gives us a chance to watch one of the most enigmatic performers who has ever lived.