Harvey Fuqua, a founding member of the doo-wop group the Moonglows who would go on to guide the career of soul great Marvin Gaye, died at the age of 80 on Tuesday in a Detroit hospital. The cause was “coronary problems” stemming from an unspecified illness, according to the Motown Alumni Association.
“We are all so saddened to hear of the passing of one of our greatest family members,” Motown founder Berry Gordy tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “Harvey Fuqua was a pioneer in his own right, bringing in and mentoring Marvin Gaye, Lamont Dozier and others, in the early years of Motown. An incredible performer, producer, writer and executive, heading our Artist Development Department — Harvey did it all. We will always love and miss him.”
Born on July 27, 1929, Fuqua started his music career in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1950s in local vocal group the Crazy Sounds. After getting spotted by the iconic DJ Alan Freed, the band changed their name to the Moonglows and went on to sign to Chess Records. The Moonglows recorded a string of classic doo-wop songs, including 1955’s “Sincerely” (which would remain their highest-charting hit at Number 20), 1956’s “See Saw,” and 1958’s “Ten Commandments of Love,” on which Fuqua sung lead vocals. (Check out a clip of Fuqua singing “Ten Commandments” below.)
In 1958, Gaye, who was a member of the Washington, D.C.-based group the Marquees, joined the Moonglows. Fuqua split from the group later that year, but continued working with Gaye, as well as Lamont Dozier and Johnny Bristol, for a new label started by Gordy. A few years later, he started his own independent label, Tri-Phi and Harvey Records, but later moved over to Motown to head the Artist Development department after growing tired with trying to run a label with no major distribution. At the label, Fuqua was responsible for recording hits like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love,” among others.
The Moonglows reunited in 1972, but Fuqua had more success working with Gaye on his 1982 comeback album Midnight Love, which hit Number Seven and spawned the smash single “Sexual Healing.” Marilyn Freeman, Fuqua’s business partner and manager for Gaye, recalls the two were in high spirits working on the LP in the studio. “They were like peas in a pod and were relaxed and would laugh a lot in the studio,” Freeman tells Rolling Stone. “Harvey could come up with ideas and Marvin would say, ‘I don’t know about that Harvey,’ but Harvey would say, ‘Let’s just try it.’ They were a fabulous team together and that’s why the album did what it did.
In his later years, Fuqua and the Moonglows were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He remained beloved by surviving members of the Motown Family up until the end of his life. “People loved to sit and talk to him and just get his thoughts on music,” says Freeman. “He was just an incredible gifted gentleman with a big, big heart.”
Watch Fuqua performing “Ten Commandments of Love” below: