Janis Gaye, one of the 17 children of pioneering musician Slim Gaillard, spent the early years of her life in foster care, ultimately going to live with her mother as a teenager. She met her future husband Marvin Gaye when she was just 17. While their love affair produced two children, Nona and Frankie, their relationship was ultimately doomed by Marvin’s drug addiction as well a his physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Just off of winning a victory in the “Blurred Lines” copyright victory which awarded the Gaye family $17.5 million for copyright infringement, Janis is releasing her memoir After The Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye with David Ritz. Gaye says that she’s happy with the way the book came out.
“I am, very much so,” says Gaye. Janis says she met Marvin through her mother. She’d been crushing on the older singer and was happy to get the chance to actually meet him in real life. “He was going to sing at my birthday party and that didn’t work out but eventually we met at MoWest studios.”
And as they say, the rest is musical history. Janis says that it wasn’t all that unusual at the time (or even now, as we see with Kylie Jenner and Tyga) for someone her age to have a relationship with an older man. Marvin was 34 at the time.
“For those times it didn’t seem unusual at all,” Janis says. “Coming out of the 60’s and 70’s, coming out of the whole free love and the whole culture was a bit different than it is today.”
In After The Dance, Janis says that their relationship developed quickly. They had two children together and were married by the time she was 20. But the relationship fell apart due to drugs and abuse. At varying times, Gaye coerced his young bride into doing threesomes, told her that two pregnancies had destroyed her body and was physically and verbally abusive.
“I wouldn’t say it was a Svengali [like relationship] but he had to have a partner to engage with. I just happened to be that partner. Even that young, at 17, I could have gone home. I could have walked away. It was my choice. I can’t lay the blame at Marvin’s feet for things that might be uncomfortable or tumultuous for the reader. ”
In portions of the book, Janis details her relationships with Rick James, Frankie Beverly and Teddy Pendergrass. But she says that’s it’s incorrect to suggest that Marvin set her up with them, although that is what the book seems to indicate.
“He didn’t set me up with them per se. These were people that we were surrounded by that were all drawn to Marvin in one way or another. These are people that were in our world,” Janis says.
Janis was in the studio for the recording of Let’s Get It On and most of the songs are reflective of their relationship. The I Want You album was also based on their passion for each other and Janis says, yes, Gaye was singing those songs directly to her.
“Obviously they bring back great memories. The older you get and the more you collect the memories of your life and you think back to what it’s all been about, it’s a great feeling,” she says.
Janis says that although she’s thought of her life and relationship with Marvin as a movie, she isn’t currently trying to make one happen.
As for what songs are her favorite? She can’t pick just one but in her top 5 are: “Inner City Blues,” is in my head every day for obvious reasons. It can still make me cry at the drop of a hat when I read the newspaper.”
“What’s Going On,” “Come Live With Me Angel,” “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” “Come Get To This,” round out her selections.
Click the link above to hear the entire interview.
(Photo: Johnny Segal)