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Author and Stylist Janis Gaye, Marvin Gaye's Ex-Wife and Muse, Dies at 66

Photo Courtesy  "After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye" 
Janis Gaye, the second wife of singer Marvin Gaye and the inspiration for some of his biggest hits, has died at the age of 66.

No cause of death has been given for the stylist and author, who passed away on Saturday in her Rhode Island home, but the couple's daughter Nona confirmed the news.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my mother, Janis Gaye. She was the most influential woman in my life and many others," Nona said in a statement.

The 48-year-old singer and actress continued, "From the time she met my father, she was exposed to the way he saw this world was aching, and she did her best to preserve his legacy as he was taken from us far too early."

The marriage between Janis and Marvin was a tumultuous one.

The daughter of noted jazz musician Bulee "Slim" Gaillard, who rose to prominence in the 1930s, she met the two-time Grammy Award winner at a recording session for his classic album "Let's Get It On" in 1973 when she was 17.

A torrid affair began between the two, even though Gaye was still married to the sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Anna. She served as Gaye's muse through the completion of the record. One of its tracks, "If I Should Die Tonight," was inspired by her.



Nona was born the following year. The couple had a son, Frankie Christian, in 1975, before marrying in 1977, after his divorce from Anna was finalized, when Janis was 21 and Marvin was 38.

Things quickly started to deteriorate between the two.

Marvin, who famously wrote the hit ballad "Jan" about his wife and penned the million-plus selling 1976 album "I Want You" in dedication to her, allegedly abused his new bride. Drug abuse, codependence and affairs by both parties also played a part in the demise of their relationship.

The couple divorced in 1981. In 2013, she wrote a memoir with David Ritz, "After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye," detailing the couple's relationship.

In the book, Janis discloses why she eventually filed for separation and why, while the two remained close until his death, she could not remain in a marriage with the soulful singer.

One chapter reveals that while high on cocaine and magic mushrooms, Marvin went into a "murderous rage."

"His eyes turned red with hatred. I was filled with fear...he took a kitchen knife and put it to my throat. I was petrified, paralyzed. I thought it was all over," she says in the book.

"'I've loved you so much,' he said. 'This love is killing me. I beg you to provoke me. Provoke me right now so I can take us both out of our misery."

Janis added that she was too frightened to say a word or move, but she knew what she had to do when he eventually put the knife away. She moved out of the couple's Los Angeles home with their two children.

Gaye died a day short of his 45th birthday in 1984, after being shot twice by his father, Marvin Gay Sr., when the two got into a physical altercation. Gay Sr., who it was discovered had a brain tumor, was given a suspended six-year sentence and probation for the killing, after having his initial murder charge reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

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