18. Marvin Gaye
By Smokey Robinson
At Motown, Marvin was one of the main characters in the greatest musical story ever told. Prior to that, nothing quite like Motown had ever existed — all those songwriters, singers, producers working and growing together, part family, part business — and I doubt seriously if it will ever happen like that again. And there's no question that Marvin will always be a huge part of the Motown legacy.
When Marvin first came to Motown, he was the drummer on all the early hits I had with the Miracles. He and I became close friends — he was my brother, really — and I did a lot of production and wrote a lot of songs for him: "Ain't That Peculiar," "I'll Be Doggone." Of course, that means that I spent a lot of time waiting for Marvin. See, Marvin was basically late coming to the studio all the time. But I never minded, because I knew that whenever Marvin did get there, he was going to sing my song in a way that I had never imagined it. He would Marvinize my songs, and I loved it. Marvin could sing anything, from gospel to gutbucket blues to jazz to pop.
But Marvin was much more than just a great singer. He was a great record maker, a gifted songwriter, a deep thinker — a real artist in the true sense. What's Going On is the most profound musical statement in my lifetime. It never gets dated. I still remember when I would go by Marvin's house and he was working on it, he would say, "Smoke, this album is being written by God, and I'm just the instrument that he's writing it through."
Marvin really had it all — that voice, that soul, that look, too. He was one very handsome man. He had sex appeal and his music was sexy. You couldn't blame women for falling in love with Marvin.
I said before that when you worked with Marvin, it meant you were waiting for Marvin. But Marvin was always worth the wait. I suppose that in a way, I'm still waiting for Marvin.