Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Legacy of Marvin Gaye


Early this year, it was announced that the United States Postal Service will debut a stamp to commemorate singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye.


The celebration will commence this April, on what would have been the late R&B crooner’s 80th birthday.


Shelby Copeland writes in CNN Entertainment, “the stamp shows a portrait of Gaye…designed to mimic a vintage cover art… the stamp pane will feature a brief biography and an image of a record peeking out of the sleeve.”


This stamp will have Gaye join the ranks of other late great musical performers who each have a stamp in their honor, from Michael Jackson to John Lennon and Elvis Pressley.


Known by many as the “Prince of Soul,” Marvin Gaye became known for his musical hits, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,” “I Want You,” “Sexual Healing,” among others. Both his music and vocal work proved to be revolutionary in R&B, paving the way for contemporary singers such as Keith Sweat, Usher, John Legend, and more.


His 1971 opus What’s Going On was a pivotal moment in R&B and soul music. By far one of the earliest “concept albums” of its kind, the nine-track album has become artifact of popular culture, touching on topics such as violence, racism, war, and poverty. Remarked as one of the many soundtracks of the 1970’s, it produced timeless hits such as the title track, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).  Gaye continued musical success until his untimely death on April 1st, 1984 at the age of 44.


The debut of the stamp pays homage to the late singer’s place is popular music. Andreas Florez writes in SpeakerTv’s “The Legacy of Motown: A Tribute to Marvin Gaye,” “the one who truly personifies the sound and soul of Motown is the legendary Marvin Gaye…no other artist in history has been able to transcend rhythm and blues and soul music as effortlessly.”


The sense of emotion and vulnerability reflected in Gaye’s music provided a template of liberation for Black male performers. When looking at other landmark albums such as MichaelJackson’s Thriller (1982), D’Angelo’s Voodoo (2000), Usher’s Confessions (2004), Maxwell’s BLACKSummers’ night(2009), among others, the formula of cathartic lyrics mixed with instrument-soaked melodies pays homage to the late R&B/Soul pioneer.



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