Janis Hunter Gaye, second wife of Marvin Gaye, dead at 66
Hunter Gaye inspired several songs by the late Motown singer, including "I Want You," "Let's Get it On," and "After the Dance."
Janis Hunter Gaye, the second wife and occasional muse of famed singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, has died at age 66. She died in her Rhode Island home of an undisclosed cause.
Hunter Gaye’s family announced news of her death, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Her daughter, singer and actress Nona Gaye, made a statement about her passing.
“From the time she met my father, she was exposed to the way he saw this world was aching, and she did her best to preserve his legacy as he was taken from us far too early,” Nona Gaye said. “She took every moment to speak about every word and every note of his music, and she wanted to make sure everyone knew the man she fell in love with. I will never get to see her again in this life but know she’s in heaven with my father and a spokesperson for us in spirit.”
Hunter Gaye began her relationship with Marvin Gaye after meeting him in 1973. As the daughter of famed singer Slim Gaillard, she was introduced to the Motown superstar by producer Ed Townsend at the label’s Los Angeles studio. Townsend was collaborating with Gaye on the follow-up album to his 1971 classic, “What’s Going On.”
Marvin, 34 years old at the time, became smitten with 17-year-old Janis. She became a muse for him to write and compose what was to become the “Let’s Get it On” album that year. Still married to his first wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, Marvin began a romantic relationship with Hunter Gaye that produced two children, Nona and Frankie. After his divorce from Gordy Gaye was finalized in 1977, Janis and Marvin married.
Hunter Gaye would inspire her husband to record numerous songs about her, including “Jan” for his 1974 “Marvin Gaye Live!” album, and the titular track from the 1976 sensuous classic, “I Want You.” Marvin even namedropped Hunter Gaye in the album’s songs, including “I Want to Be Where You Are,” and “Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again.”
In late 1978, Gaye released the album, “Here, My Dear,” written about the dissolution of his marriage to Gordy Gaye. The album’s penultimate track, “Falling in Love Again,” was dedicated to Hunter Gaye, as stated in Gaye’s biography, “Divided Soul.”
However, the marriage between Marvin and Janis was short-lived, with much of their relationship marred by Gaye’s alleged physical and psychological abuse of Hunter Gaye. They separated in the late 1970s and divorced in 1981, two years before Gaye was fatally shot by his father, Marvin Gaye Sr.
In 2015, Hunter Gaye wrote a memoir about her tumultuous relationship with her late husband, “After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye.”
Along with Hunter Gaye’s two children, she is survived by sister Shawnn, brother Mark and grandson Nolan. A public memorial honoring Hunter Gaye’s life will be announced at a later date.
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