Janis Hunter Gaye, second wife of Motown legend Marvin Gaye and mother of two of his children, has died, her family said in a statement. She was 66.
Jan Gaye, who sang the backup song for Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” died at home in Rhode Island on Saturday. No cause of death was given.
“From the time she met my father she was exposed to the way he saw this world hurt and did her best to preserve his legacy as he was taken from us far too soon ‘ Nona Gaye said in a statement afterwards, noting how she was ‘deeply saddened’ by the death of her mother. “She took every moment to talk about every word and note of his music and she wanted to make sure everyone knew the man she had fallen in love with.”
“From first memories of my grandmother, I knew then and now how much she cared for her family and how warm she was toward all of us,” said grandson Nolan Pentz. “I will always be grateful for all the memories. She has also ministered to so many people around the world and I will do whatever it takes to make the things she wanted happen and help continue Gaye’s legacy.
Jan Hunter was introduced to Marvin Gaye in Los Angeles in 1973 through a producer friend of her mother’s when the singer was 34 and she was 17. At the time, Gaye was still married to Anna Gordy, sister of Anna Gordy, her first wife, but estranged from Motown founder Berry Gordy. Anna Gordy and Gaye separated in 1975 and divorced in 1977.
After giving birth to daughter Nona in 1974 and son Frankie in 1975, Jan and Marvin married in 1977. They separated in 1979 and their divorce was finalized in 1981.
Marvin Gaye died three years later at the age of 44 after being shot twice in the chest by his father at the Crenshaw District home he shared with his parents. Jan Gaye was mistakenly identified as “Janie Hunger” in The Times obituary of her ex-husband.
Marvin Gaye wrote his 1974 hit “Jan” for the woman who would become his second wife, with the lyrics: “You see, Janice is one of a kind / One of a kind / Who says she loves me / When she goes to sleep I kiss her Face / And think I’m the happiest man / And I’m her biggest fan / There ain’t a cuter girl in all the country (Country) / Than my Jan (Jan), Janice (Janice), Jan (Jan), oh Jan ( Janice) Jan (Jan).”
In 2015 she published the book After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye under the name Jan Gaye. The book has been described by editor HarperCollins as “a searing reminder of drugs, sex and old-school R&B.”
“In one moment, Jan was a high school student; the next time she accompanied Marvin to parties and navigated the fascinating world of celebrities from the 1970s to 1980s; hanging out with Don Cornelius on the set of ‘Soul Train’ and helping spot new talent like Frankie Beverly,” continued HarperCollins. “But the burden of fame, the chaos of dysfunctional families, and the irresistible temptations of drugs complicated their love.”
In the family statement, Nona Gaye, who starred in the series Ali and The Matrix, described her mother as an unforgettable woman.
“Every word that came out of her mouth was from her soul. She never said anything she didn’t mean,” the actor said. “I know that from the age of 17 until her death, her drive and influence revolved only around her family and her family that went beyond blood — brothers, sisters in every part of this beautiful and painful planet.”
In addition to her children and grandson, Jan Gaye is survived by her sister Shawnn Monteiro and brother Mark Gaillard. Worship services will be private, with a public event to be announced at a later date.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-12-07/janis-hunter-gaye-dead-marvin-gaye Jan Gaye, Marvin Gaye’s second wife, is dead at 66