Brother, brother, brother
Marvin Gaye’s sister remembers her legendary sibling.
Known as the “Prince of Soul,” Marvin Gaye was a legendary singer, songwriter and producer who gave the world a treasure trove of timeless music and helped shape the Motown sound. From “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get It On” to “Stubborn Kind of Fellow,” “I Want You,” “Got to Give It Up,” and “Sexual Healing” — Gaye was the force behind so many songs that can never be forgotten.
But who was the man behind the music? His sister, Zeola Gaye, currently resides in Las Vegas — and her newly-published memoir, “My Brother Marvin,” gives a behind-the-scenes look at the life of the immensely talented yet troubled superstar who was killed by his father more than 30 years ago.
“My book focuses on my life story — which includes Marvin,” said Zeola Gaye. “I talk about my family and the relationship I had with Marvin, my mother and my father. Marvin was six years older than myself and there were four siblings altogether who grew up in our home. My mother had another child before meeting my dad who didn’t live with us, named Michael. I talk about the day that Marvin died and what took place after his death in my book.”
According to Zeola, her famous brother — who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three years after his death — had many great moments. “I would say that one of Marvin’s greatest moments was when he won the Grammy Award for his song, ‘Sexual Healing.’ That was very special to him because it took almost 30 years before he won,” she said. “He felt he should have won for some of his other records, especially, ‘What’s Going On.’ At the end of Marvin’s career he admitted he no longer made music for pleasure; instead he said, ‘I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that can help someone overcome a bad time.’”
Born on April 2, 1939, in Washington D.C., Marvin grew up in a family that always knew he was very special and unlike other children being raised in the projects. Zeola explains, “Marvin was a very special kid growing up and in his teenage years. He was very different and spent a lot of time by himself. He loved looking at nature and would often speak about God. Sometimes I would just find him staring at the water, trees and different things like that. He was very spiritual, but also very funny.”
Marvin’s hit 1970 record, “What’s Going On,” was inspired by the escalating violence and political unrest over the Vietnam War and also the conditions that plagued black communities around the country. The song has proven both prescient and prophetic.
“Well, I think Marvin would be very disappointed to know that many things in our world today haven’t changed. But I am not sure that if he were alive he would write another song like ‘What’s Going On,’ because he already did it. The things he sang about then are happening now, but I don’t know if he would readdress the issues. But he always said that God touched him when he wrote ‘What’s Going On.’ That was his way of opening man’s eyes.”
Zeola has only fond childhood memories of her brother, and spent most of her early adult years working by his side on tours.
“I remember Marvin always protecting me — even if I did something wrong in the house and was due to receive a spanking, Marvin would take the rap for me and say that he did it,” she recalls. “All my moments with Marvin were great. He made it possible for me to travel the world as one of his backup dancers. Also, I cared for him and cooked for him. He loved my intuition the most, and would ask my opinion about the songs he would write. He would call home while in the studio and ask me to get on the phone to hear a song he was working on. I remember him playing, ‘Stubborn Kind of Fellow,’ ‘Sexual Healing,’ ‘Pride and Joy,’ and songs that he recorded with Tammi Terrell. I would listen to the songs and say, ‘That’s a hit.’ Sometimes I would hear the songs before anyone else. Our mother and father would call the local radio stations and request the deejays to play Marvin’s songs all the time.”
Many can remember where they were on April 1, 1984 when the news reported that Marvin Gaye was murdered.
According to Zeola, illness and addiction were the culprits. “Addiction did play a major role in Marvin’s death. My father [who shot and killed Marvin] was an alcoholic, and many people are unaware that he also had a brain tumor that affected his emotions and actions. Marvin and I both were on drugs and I would say that addiction had a whole lot to do with Marvin’s death. If you read my book, I go into deeper details as to what happened the day Marvin died.”
For additional information on “My Brother Marvin,” go to Amazon.com. You can speak to Zeola Gaye directly on her Facebook page, and visit her website at zeolagaye.com.