HomeAmerican EntertainmentPeopleJanis Hunter Gaye, Marvin Gaye’s Wife, Dead at 66

Janis Hunter Gaye, Marvin Gaye’s Wife, Dead at 66

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Janis Hunter Gaye, the former wife of late Motown icon Marvin Gaye, passed away on Saturday, Dec. 3, at her home in Rhode Island, according to her family. She was 66. The cause of death is not yet known.

Janis was the singer’s second marriage, and she is credited for inspiring some of his best works, including Jan and I Want You.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my mother, Janis Gaye,” her daughter, singer Nona Gaye, announced in a statement. “She was the most influential woman in my life and many others. I believe once you met my mother Jan, she wasn’t a woman you could ever forget. Every word from her mouth was from her soul.”

“She never said anything she didn’t mean. I know her drive and influence from the time she was 17 until the day she died was all about her family and family that extended beyond blood

Janice Hunter Gaye Inspired Some of Marvin Gaye’s Biggest Hits

Marvin Gaye and Janis met in 1973, while he was recording his album Let’s Get It On at Hitsville West in LA. Marvin was 34. And at the time, he was married to Anna Gordy (m.1963; div. 1977). Janis was 17.

The couple married in 1977 and divorced four years later. Along with Nona, they also shared a son, Frankie Gaye.

Nona shared in her statement that despite the breakup, Janis respected and loved Marvin Gaye until the end.

“From the time she met my father, she was exposed to the way he saw this world was aching,” she wrote in a statement. “And she did her best to preserve his legacy as he was taken from us far too early.”

Marvin Gaye died in 1984 after he attempted to stop a physical altercation between his father and mother. During the fight, his father, Marvin Gaye Sr., fatally shot him in the heart.

“She took every moment to speak about every word and every note of his music. And she wanted to make sure everyone knew the man she fell in love with. I will never get to see her again in this life. But know she’s in heaven with my father and a spokesperson for us in spirit,” Nona concluded.

‘Jan’ Gaye Managed Her Daughter’s Singing and Acting Career

In life, Janis Hunter Gaye briefly worked as an actress and has one film credit, Lobster Man From Mars (1989). She also sang backup for her former husband’s No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single Got to Give It Up.

Later, Janis managed Nona Gaye’s singing and acting career. Nona starred in Crash, Ali, and the Matrix franchise. She also released two studio albums, Love for the Future (1992) and Language of Love (2008).

Aside from Nona, survivors also include son Frankie, sister Shawnn, brother Mark and grandson Nolan.

This is a developing story.