Apr 2, 2019: Marvin Gaye Stamp Issued on 80th Birthday

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The United States Postal Service (U.S.P.S.) issued a Marvin Gaye commemorative stamp on April 2, 2019, on what would have been the singer’s 80th birthday. The original Nov. 2018 announcement noted, “With this new stamp in the Music Icons series, the U.S. Postal Service honors Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)—the ‘Prince of Soul’—one of the most influential music performers of his generation.”

A first-day-of-issue ceremony was held at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, attended by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, as well as labelmates Smokey Robinson and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Also there: the soul legend’s son Marvin Gaye III, daughter Nona Gaye, sister Zeola Gay and brother Antwaun Gay.

The stamp design features a portrait of Gaye inspired by historic photographs. The stamp pane is designed to resemble a vintage 45 rpm record sleeve. One side of the pane includes the stamps, brief text about Gaye’s legacy, and the image of a sliver of a record seeming to peek out the top of the sleeve. Another portrait of Gaye, also inspired by historic photographs, appears on the reverse along with the Music Icons series logo. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp pane with original art by Kadir Nelson.

“It brings me great pride and pleasure to see my father finally get a stamp,” said Marvin Gaye III. “Such a monumental achievement for his legacy. I want to thank Kadir Nelson for his God-given creative talent. What a remarkable rendition you’ve done. Bravo, man, for capturing my father’s true essence. It immediately drew me in when I first saw it. My father would be so pleased as much or more than I am. Thank you so much!”

Related: Our recap of the 2018 ceremony introducing the John Lennon stamp

Gaye, a Motown Records superstar starting in the early 1960s, had been the subject of a lobbying campaign by his family and fans, and a group called the Motown Alumni Association, since 2003. Petitions with signatures numbering in the thousands had been submitted to the U.S.P.S. pushing for a Gaye stamp. A resolution was passed by the Los Angeles City Council, former L.A. Mayor James Hahn and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to get this unique and special honor for the deceased singer. (Gaye lived in Los Angeles after Motown moved its offices there from Detroit.)

Born Marvin Gay in Washington, D.C., the singer was signed to Motown’s Tamla Records subsidiary and scored his first hit, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow,” in 1962. His top 10 singles included “Pride and Joy,” “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You),” “Sexual Healing” and the #1 pop hits “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Let’s Get it On,” “Got to Give it Up (Part 1).”

He also released hit duets with female singers including Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston. In 1971 Gaye released the politically and socially charged album What’s Going On, which became a top 10 seller despite the reluctance of label head Berry Gordy Jr. to allow Motown music to wade into the social controversies of the day. The album is often cited as one of the greatest in any genre.

Marvin Gaye was murdered by his own father on April 1, 1984, following a domestic dispute.

Related: Our review of the Motown book The Sound of Young America

Gaye’s extensive recording catalog is available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

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