Marvin Gaye was born and raised and began his performing and recording careers in Washington, DC. Gaye started his professional singing career with local acts the Marquees and the Moonglows, with whom he decamped to the Midwest in 1959 at age 20. In Chicago and later Detroit, at first he found work mostly as a backup singer, songwriter, and drummer.
A decade later, Gaye was one of Motown's top acts, known as "The Prince of Soul", and he used that clout to record "What's Going On", considered by many to be the greatest soul album ever made. At that point, Gaye became one of the first Black American singers to earn full creative control of his recordings from a major label, and to secure a $1 million recording contract.