Anna Gordy Gaye
Anna Ruby Gordy Gaye (née Gordy; December 12, 1921 – January 31, 2014), was an American businesswoman, composer and songwriter. An elder sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, she co-founded the photo concession at Detroit's Flame Show Bar, with sister Gwen. In 1958, she co-founded the record label Anna Records, alongside Gwen and Billy Davis. Later the wife of Motown recording artist Marvin Gaye, she co-wrote two tunes on Gaye's What's Going On album, and co-wrote hits with Gaye for the Motown group The Originals, including the hit ballad "Baby, I'm for Real". The troubled marriage between Anna and Marvin became the focal point of Gaye's 1978 album Here, My Dear.
Life and career
Anna Ruby Gordy was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, located in Baldwin County, Georgia, the third-eldest of eight children of Berry Gordy Sr.(Berry Gordy II) and Bertha Ida (née Fuller) Gordy. Shortly after her birth, Gordy's father moved up to Detroit from Georgia to seek a better life for his family and to escape any hint of racial tension due to a business deal, later sending for his family after settling down. Gordy, like most of her family, became a successful businesswoman, starting out as a co-operator of the photo concession at Detroit's Flame Show Bar in the early fifties with sister Gwen, later starting her own namesake label, Anna Records with Gwen and Billy Davis in 1958, a year before her brother Berry launched Tamla Records, later to be a subsidiary for Motown.
The label would later be noted as the distributor of Tamla's first national hit record, "Money (That's What I Want)". Other artists such as David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye and Joe Tex also recorded for the label, which lasted until 1961, when Berry Gordy absorbed the label and its artists. Gordy then joined her brother's label and started the Artist Development class, becoming its president. Gordy also joined Motown's staff team as a songwriter. Gordy's biggest success as a songwriter came in the late 1960s and early 1970s, co-writing two major hits for Motown group The Originals, alongside her then-husband Marvin, including "Baby, I'm for Real" and "The Bells", which also featured Anna's niece Iris, as a co-writer. In 1971, Gordy's husband released the acclaimedWhat's Going On, which featured two songs co-composed by Gordy, including "Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)" and "God Is Love".
The song's musical instrumentation was co-composed by Gordy and was used in another Gaye-Gordy composition, "Just to Keep You Satisfied", which Gaye produced versions by The Monitors and The Originals before overdubbing The Originals' version for his own version on 1973's Let's Get It On. However on Gaye's version, the singer completely rewrote the lyrics and based the song on the demise of a marriage. Gordy left Motown in 1979 and retired from the music business.
Occupation Songwriter, composer, businessperson
Spouse(s) Marvin Gaye (1963–77; divorced) Parents
- Berry Gordy II (1888–1978)
- Bertha Ida Gordy (née Fuller) (1899–1975)
- Fuller (1918–91; brother)
- Esther Gordy Edwards (1920–2011; sister)
- Loucye (1924–65; sister)
- George (1926–2011; brother)
- Gwen Gordy Fuqua (1927–99; sister)
- Berry Gordy (b. 1929; brother)
- Robert (b. 1931; brother)
Gordy met Marvin Gaye around 1960. Although seventeen years her junior, Gaye pursued Gordy for months before the two eventually started dating around 1961. After a two-year courtship, they married around June 1963. According to Marvin, it was Anna who convinced Motown to allow Marvin to work on a standards album (The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye). Gordy, herself a songwriter, helped to pen the song, "Never Let You Go (Sha-Lu-Bop)", from the album. Inspired by their romance, Gaye penned hit singles based off Anna including "Stubborn Kind of Fellow", "Pride & Joy" and "You're a Wonderful One". Of "Pride and Joy", Gaye said, "When I composed 'Pride and Joy', I was head over heels in love with Anna. I just wrote what I felt about her, and what she did for me. She was my pride and joy."
The marriage between Marvin and Anna was reportedly turbulent, leading to public spats. During their marriage ceremony, Anna threw one of her heels at Marvin to stop an argument. In order to bring some stability to their home life, Anna and Marvin adopted a little boy who was born on November 17, 1966. The boy was soon named after his adopted father (Marvin Pentz Gaye III). While the boy was said to have been naturally conceived by Anna and Marvin during Motown's public relations stories of the couple, Marvin himself would confirm the adoption in David Ritz's Marvin biography, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. In later years, the identity of the mother was revealed as Denise Gordy. After Marvin's death, 17-year-old Marvin III learned of his mother's identity and of his parents' adoption. Gaye told Ritz that he was afraid of revealing the truth about the adoption due to facing ridicule for not being able to father a child naturally.
During the mid-1960s, Marvin and Anna lived at a comfortable home outside Outer Drive in Detroit until 1972 when the couple relocated to Hollywood. Shortly after the move, however, the Gayes' marriage fell apart. By 1973, Gaye had moved out of their Hollywood Hills home, filed for legal separation from Anna and settled with a young woman, Janis Hunter, who ironically was seventeen years younger than Marvin. Following the births of their children, Nona and Frankie, an upset Anna Gordy filed for divorce. The ensuing divorce case lasted for a year and a half, with the matters settled by March 1977. The divorce court was extensive due to Gaye's absence in court as Gordy's attorneys discussed matters of payments for spousal support and alimony for their son, the few times Gaye did show up to court, he would leave angered enough to compose music. To settle Gaye's financial difficulties in the divorce settlement, Gaye's attorney Curtis Shaw worked out a deal in which Gordy would be paid off from the royalties of Gaye's next album.
The resulting album, Here, My Dear, gave audiences a view of the marriage through Marvin's point of view. Released in December 1978, Gordy heard the album and threatened to sue Marvin for $5 million for invasion of privacy. Nothing came of this threat. Despite the divorce, by the early 1980s, Marvin and Anna had reconciled their friendship and Anna began attending events with Marvin following the release of his Midnight Love album and was present at the Grammy Awards in 1983 when Marvin won his only two Grammy Awards. When rumors escalated that the exes had considered remarriage, Gaye would tell reporters that he and Anna were happy enough to "remain friends". Gaye's death in 1984 devastated Gordy; later she and Marvin's three children disposed of most of Gaye's ashes near the Pacific Ocean following his cremation after his funeral while Anna herself kept a portion of Marvin's ashes following his funeral. When Gaye was honored with induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Gordy attended and accepted Gaye's induction to the Hall of Fame on his behalf with Marvin Gaye III.
Gordy made her last public appearance with her brother Berry at a red carpet event where he was honored, in 2008.
She died on January 31, 2014 at the age of 92.
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