Illustration of Marvin Gaye done by Dwight Harris
Dwight Harris

On April 2, 1939, Marvin Pentz Gaye Jr. was born here in D.C., and he grew up in a poor segregated section of town. My dad played basketball with him in Lincoln Heights, according to my mom. There’s a park named after Marvin there now. 

Marvin sang in his father’s church when he was a little boy and attended Cardozo High School in Columbia Heights as he got older. It was then, in the mid-’50s, that Marvin formed his first group, the D.C. Tones. 

By the time he finished high school, Marvin was ready to  pursue his singing career as a members of The Moonglows. He performed at Howard Theater when it was considered part of the Chitlin’ Circuit, venues throughout the country where it was safe for Black performers to take the stage. He eventually left The Moonglows to start his solo career with Motown Records 

Marvin made a lot of hits with Motown, including duets with female singers such as Kim Weston, Mary Wells, and Tami Terrell. 

He could do a lot more than sing, too. Marvin was a talented writer, arranger and producer. He became known as the Prince of Soul because every song he sang turned into a hit, including “What Going On,” “Let’s Get It On,” and “Just Like Music.”   

On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye, Jr. was killed, tragically. I would like his surviving family members  to know that he continues to inspire. I wanted to write this article because I, too, was born here in D.C. and I grew up with Marvin’s music and his story. He has been an inspiration in my life, and one of my favorite songs is “Inner City Blues,” which I still listen to today. His music will live on.