Lessons On Style: Marvin Gaye

The better part of my week has been spent diving into Marvin Gaye’s rich discography on Spotify. While listening to Gaye’s music and thinking about his style, several parallels can be drawn. Most evident is that like his voice; Marvin’s style was equally as smooth.

The singer’s musical genius and style truly started to shine when he began to fight for more creative control over his music and distance himself further away from Motown Records. The label’s image was highly stylized and the heavy production of their radio-ready singles lacked a certain substance that Marvin was looking for in his music.

In 1971, Gaye released his masterpiece, What’s Going On, which changed the direction of his career and of R&B as a genre. Considered R&B’s first concept album, the release of What’s Going On helped establish Marvin Gaye as a complex artist. Influenced by the politics of the 70’s, the album centered around the struggles of a Vietnam veteran returning home after the war with each track flowing seamlessly to the next. The album sits at a comfortable sixth place on Rolling Stones’ list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

During the early days of his career, Gaye would take the stage in well-tailored suits which he would eventually swap for his signature casual attire during the 70s and 80s. Not many people can say that they look as at ease in a three piece suit as they do in a Canadian tuxedo.

A sartorial highlight was Marvin singing his show stealing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game in a double breasted suit and aviator sunglasses. With a smooth voice and incredibly dapper attire, simply put, Marvin was cool.

Marvin Gaye was a trendsetter and was clearly ahead of his time. Some of the pieces that we define as classic style today – denim on denim, jackets with a popped collar, aviator shades, and knitted hats worn with everything – Marvin Gaye was wearing decades ago. It’s well into 2013 and not uncommon to see any, if not all of these trends on a daily basis.

Although Gaye was tragically murdered nearly 30 years ago, his influence on music and style continues to live on. With winter coming to an end, a knitted hat worn with everything may be a little out of context, but there are countless other lessons on style from Marvin that we all can take to heart.

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