Janis Hunter Gaye, the second wife of Motown superstar Marvin Gaye and the inspiration for some of his songs, died Saturday at her home in Rhode Island for an unidentified reason, according to her family. She was 66 years old.
Producer Ed Townsend introduced Hunter Gaye to the singer at a 1973 recording session at Hitsville West in Los Angeles for his album Let’s Get It On, which was released that year. Gaye was married to Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, at the time; Hunter Gaye was 17 and he was 34.
Gaye composed “Jan” for his future wife and recorded it for his 1974 album, Marvin Gaye Live!, and his 1976 album, I Want You, which has been described as a “romantic and sensual ode” to her. Her background vocals were included on his 1977 disco single, “Got to Give It Up,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. That year, they married.
Hunter Gaye put together the classic ensemble red watch cap, beaded denim shirt, and silver red-laced platform boots that Gaye wore for his memorable 1974 musical performance at the Oakland Coliseum, according to her family.
BREAKING Marvin Gaye’s wife Janis Hunter Gaye dies age 66 after inspiring icon’s albumhttps://t.co/pSkg0ObS3m
— Mirror Breaking News (@MirrorBreaking_) December 7, 2022
The couple married in 1977 and divorced in 1981. He died three years later in Los Angeles after being shot by his father. After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye, her book, was published in 2015.
Hunter Gaye was the daughter of Slim Gaillard, a singer-songwriter known for classics such as “Flat Foot Floogie (With a Floy Floy).” She also handled the career of her daughter, Nona Gaye, a singer and actress whose credits include Ali, Crash, and two Matrix films.
“From the moment she met my father, she was exposed to the way he saw the world, and she did her best to maintain his legacy when he was taken from us far too soon,” Nona Gaye said in a statement.
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“She seized every opportunity to speak about every word and note of his music, and she wanted everyone to know the man she fell in love with.” I’ll never see her again in this world, but I know she’s in heaven with my father, speaking for us in spirit.”
Son Frankie, sister Shawnn, brother Mark, and grandson Nolan are all survivors.