Marvin Gaye‘s second wife, Janis Gaye, has written a memoir about the agony and ecstasy of life in love with the Motown prince and soul icon. After the Dance, My Life with Marvin Gaye is written with ghostwriter David Ritz, who helped pen Gaye’s massive hit, Sexual Healing. The book chronicles a relationship that lasted from 1973, when Jan met Gaye not long after her 17th birthday, until Gaye’s tragic death in 1984.
What started as a passionate desire between the couple, grew increasingly harmful, as Janis portrays a highly manipulative and increasingly erratic man, who thrived on the emotional frailties he created in people. She writes of their initial mutual obsession, “The explosive power of our sexual union was incredible. We made love at every opportunity, night and day. We knew every inch of each other’s bodies. We never used birth control. It was clear that Marvin wanted me pregnant — and I did nothing to prevent that.”
However their charged relationship grew into something more dangerous when Jan realised Gaye’s level of possessiveness. Gaye asked to home school her so he wouldn’t be competing with “strapping young high-school football players looking to love on you“. Gaye’s conflicting insecurities also pushed him in the other direction though, as he sought to direct Jan towards other men, as well as couples. This culminated in a masochistic and drug-fuelled threesome between Jan and another couple as Gaye directed proceedings. In the days following this Gaye became convinced that Jan derived serious sexual gratification from the event. It’s the kind of conversation to get a relationship psychologist oh-what-a-feeling leaping with delight, yet highlights the troubled, even delusional, mind of a soul king.
“You loved it, didn’t you,”
“Oh, dear, please don’t deny it. You were an animal in heat. You couldn’t get enough. This was your dream come true.”
“Not my dream, Marvin. Yours.”
It apparently was not to be the only time that Gaye would push his wife into sexual encounters that he was not a part of. After pushing for so long, Gaye would become enraged with jealousy. Jan writes of one terrifying encounter where Gaye put a knife to her throat whilst on a mushroom and cocaine fed frenzy and begged her to ‘provoke’ him.
Jan eventually filed for divorce in 1982, two years before Gaye was shot to death in an altercation with his father, on April 1, 1984. Jan writes of her eventual forgiveness of herself for continuing through such an obsessive relationship:
“That I lost myself in someone else — someone as remarkable as Marvin Gaye — is no longer cause for self-condemnation.”