Marvin Gaye: The Prince of Soul

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Marvin Gaye 'Let's Get It On' 1973
Marvin Gaye 'Let's Get It On' 1973Photography by Jim Britt

Thirty years since he passed, Vintage Style remember the revolutionary style and sound of Marvin Gaye

Nicknamed The Prince of Soul, Marvin Gaye stands as one of history's greatest musical legends. From the husky whistle of Let’s Get It On to the disco kick of Got to Give it Up, Gaye’s music and style shaped the 1960s and 70s and his soulful harmonies and sensual, funk undertones continue to influence and popularise music today. In 1982, when he released Sexual Healing, People Magazine described him as “America’s hottest pop-culture turn on,” a statement that still rings true.

Gaye epitomised Motown style, pioneering double denim, monogrammed varsity jackets, shearling, leather coats, open shirts and raw-edged T-shirts, often worn with his signature knitted beanie hat and aviators. He dressed in slick velvet suits and bowties when performing, as well as clashing prints and flares.

"Gaye lives on in beanie hats, popped collars and the soulful R’n’B that inspired a generation"

Gaye was a humanitarian and he wore his heart on his sleeve, something easily identified within his often mournful, yearning and sexually-charged lyrics which addressed social and personal issues. He was troubled: underneath the harmonies lay an abusive family past, failed marriages, depression and eventually drug addiction. He was repeatedly torn between sex and God, a struggle that trickles subtly through his lyrics. “If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else,” he prophesised. However, with this line he predicted his own tragic end. After moving home to try and tackle his demons, his life was brutally cut short when he was shot in 1984 by his own father, one day before his 45th birthday. The world shook with the devastating realisation that Gaye was gone. However he lives on, in orange beanie hats, popped collars and the soulful R’n’B that inspired a generation.

Text by Mhairi Graham