The Vocals of Marvin Gaye

{Ed Note:  This article is another excellent contribution from DlphcOracl. Having schooled me on the greatness of Sam Cooke, I asked for further recommendations to deepen my exposure to the great soul singers of the last century.}

Having presented the marvelous vocals of Sam Cooke in a previous article, I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight another artist with a voice that also belongs in this rarefied pantheon. It is Marvin Gaye, and there are striking similarities between the two.  Both possessed awesome voices, with Gaye having a range that spanned four octaves.  As with Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye was a vocal stylist and had a natural ability to deliver his material, with a sense of timing and phrasing that also was born from a religious background.  Marvin Gaye’s father was a minister of a local Seventh-day Adventist Church and he would bring young Marvin with him to church revivals to sing before his congregation.

Unlike Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye was enormously popular and successful.  Throughout the sixties and seventies he sold millions of records and in 1982 he won a Grammy for his album Sexual Healing.  This album is considered a classic and it was enormously influential for decades to come.  IIRC, he was voted one of the ‘Top Ten Greatest Singers of All Time’ in a Rolling Stones poll a few years ago.  Gaye’s work was more commercially tinged than Sam Cooke’s and much of what he recorded was of less interest to me.  However, the quality of his voice is undeniable.  Unfortunately, he did share one thing with Sam Cooke — he died a premature and violent death when he was shot and killed by his father at age 46 as he struggled with drugs and mental instability.

His first major hit that brought him to national attention was his recording of Pride and Joy in 1963 at age 23.  Compare these two versions of Pride and Joy and marvel at his vocals.

These clips will demonstrate Marvin Gaye’s magnificent voice and his impeccable delivery.  There will be more than a passing similarity to Sam Cooke.

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