In the 50th anniversary year of Motown, April 2, 2009 will mark the 70th birthday of the late great Marvin Gaye. Sadly, April 1 will also mark the 25th anniversary of his tragic death the day before his 45th birthday. Motown's top solo male artist of the '60s, led by his "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"—at one time the biggest selling single in Motown history—Gaye became the label's most revolutionary artist in the '70s, breaking down barriers whether singing about the body or the soul, social consciousness or sexual politics. From his '60s classic "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," to his legendary rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, he defined the soul in "soul music."
Marvin Gaye's popularity and influence continues. His 1971 album What's Going On forever changed the subject matter of popular music; it's one of Rolling Stone magazine's top 10 albums of all time. In 1973, Let's Get It On became perhaps the most passionate and sexual album ever recorded, led by its title track, which remains one of the most popular songs of all time a certified Gold single back in the day, in the digital music era it's a Gold digital download and a Platinum-selling ringtone as well.
In 1987, three years after his death, Gaye was rightfully among only the second group of artists honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More recently, Marvin Gaye was No. 6 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time.
Noting the milestones of his birth and passing, Motown/UMe will issue a special digital-only album on March 31, Marvin Gaye: Then & Now, a 14-track set of rarities highlighted by the previously unreleased "Soulie" (pronounced "sue-lee"), a 1966 recording recently unearthed by Motown's New York-based producer Mickey Gentile, and a hot funk 2009 remix of "I Want You," Marvin's No. 1 hit from 1976, by the renowned John Morales of M+M Productions. Other tracks making their online debut are: the deep vault track "It's Your Party," and his two super-rare late '50s Chess recordings with Harvey & The Moonglows ("Mama Loocie," "Twelve Months Of The Year"). Rounding out this special collection are Marvin's earliest, pre-hit Motown singles ("Witchcraft," "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide" and more).
Motown/UMe is also issuing a vinyl-only edition of United (Motown/UMe), Gaye's classic duet album with Tammi Terrell, on April 14. The standard by which all R&B male-female duos are measured, Gaye and Terrell first teamed on the 1967 album that included "If I Could Build My World Around You," "Your Precious Love" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
In addition, the ongoing, acclaimed "Motown 50" podcast series will feature special episodes on Marvin Gaye's life and music; Gaye is also well represented on the deluxe 10-CD box set Motown: The Complete No. 1's, which kicked off the year long celebration for Motown's 50th anniversary. Both The Real Thing, a DVD collection of his greatest television and concert appearances, and Gold, a 2-CD overview of his career, have recently been certified Gold. Gaye will also figure prominently in a two-hour documentary about Motown produced by the label's founder, Berry Gordy.