Record executive and songwriter Anna Gordy Gaye passed away on Friday after a lengthy illness. She was 92. She was the elder sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. and the ex-wife of the late singer Marvin Gaye.
Gordy co-founded Anna Records along with her younger sister Gwen Gordy and musician Roquel Billy Davis in 1959. It recorded artists such as David Ruffin, Joe Tex and Barrett Strong who had a hit with “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Two years later, Anna Records was absorbed into Motown.
Gordy met Marvin Gaye when Anna Records hired him as a session drummer in 1959. Four years later, Gordy and Gaye married despite Gordy being nearly 20 years Gaye’s senior. Gordy and Gaye’s 14-year marriage was turbulent although they did occasionally manage to co-write songs together. They collaborated on two hits for The Originals – “Baby, I’m for Real” and “The Bells”. Gordy also co-wrote two songs with Gaye on his landmark 1971 album What’s Going On – “Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)” and “God is Love”.
Yet her most lasting musical contribution would be on an album on which she did not co-write a single song. Gordy filed for divorce from Gaye in 1975. Gaye was broke and unable to pay alimony. This would result in one of the most unique divorce settlements in the history of American jurisprudence. In 1978, Gaye released the album Here, My Dear. It was Gaye’ s account of his marriage to Gordy. As part of the divorce settlement, most of the royalties from the album would go to Gordy. However, the album sold poorly.
For her part, Gordy disliked her life with Gaye being aired out in public and threatened him with a $5 million lawsuit. However, Gordy never filed suit. She would eventually come to appreciate the album and would reach a rapprochement with Gaye before he was murdered in 1984. In the nearly three decades after his death, Here, My Dear is considered among his finest work.
Berry Gordy, Jr. said of his sister upon her passing:
My sister Anna was the glamour girl of the family. She was beautiful, sexy, playful, lovely. Men loved her but she lived for her family, especially her younger brothers of which, I was lucky enough to be one.