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    Marvin Gaye ’64 passport symbolizes a heady time in his life

    Recently, a former employee of the Motown Museum in Detroit appeared on an episode of “Antiques Roadshow” with a 1964 passport belonging to singer Marvin Gaye. He found it inside a record album he had bought for 50 cents at an estate sale of a musician.

    The appraiser on the show told him that passports were very collectible – and Marvin Gaye memorabilia doesn’t come up very often – and that this one was worth $20,000 for insurance purposes (which isn’t necessarily the same as retail or auction value).

    I saw the episode,  which was  produced last June and aired Feb. 3, and read the many stories repeating the details of the man’s discovery. It was indeed an amazing find. What I found equally as interesting was what the passport itself told about this time in Gaye’s life.


    An up-close and partial view of Marvin Gaye’s passport from 1964. He was 25 years old and headed to London.

    Where was he traveling to, I wondered?

    This was seemingly his first passport, issued Oct. 16, 1964, when he was 25 years old. I can imagine that it was a very exciting time for the him, just as getting that first passport is for anyone, because it foretells adventures in a place far away from home.

    Appraiser Laura Woolley had this to say on the show:

    “And then in this era, you’ve got kind of a sweet spot, I think one of the happiest times in his life. 1964, he’s still in the prime of his life and having the best time. His career’s really starting to take off. But this is such an innocent time, and people love passports because they also show where he was all over the world, what he’s doing during these years– he’s obviously traveling, he’s touring.”

    Gaye in fact was embarking on his first trip to London (and perhaps abroad). He went there in November 1964 on a press tour to promote himself and his music. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – whose song “Dancing in the Streets” was a big hit – had also made the same type of journey that month.


    A full view of Marvin Gaye’s passport from 1964.

    Several websites mentioned that Marvin Gaye’s trip was part of a Motortown Revue that went to London in November but I was not able to verify that. Motown founder Berry Gordy took his performers – the Supremes, the Temptations, Little Stevie Wonder and others, but not Gaye from what I could find – to London in March 1965, but that trip was said to have been a financial disaster.

    While in London, Gaye performed on the Nov. 20 episode of the British show “Ready Steady Go!” that also included Jerry Lee Lewis and the Rolling Stones. Gaye sang “Can I Get A Witness” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” which he lip-synched, according to one account.

    It was a heady time for Gaye, who had started out as a drummer, piano player and songwriter after arriving at Motown around 1961. By 1964, he was just coming into his own, with Gordy teaming him up for duets with Mary Wells and Kim Weston (Tammi Terrell would come about three years later), and as a solo singer.

    Motown released four albums by Gaye that year: “Together” with Wells, his fifth album and the first to make the Billboard 200 album chart; “When I Cry Alone,” “Marvin Gaye Greatest Hits” and “Hello Broadway.”


    Marvin Gaye in London, 1964. Photo from

    It was also the year of some of his biggest singles: “You’re a Wonderful One,” with backup vocals by the Supremes (who had scored their first hit “Where Did Our Love Go” that year). He co-wrote “Dancing in the Streets” for Martha and the Vandellas. He also played drums on Stevie Wonder’s recordings.

    His single “How Sweet It Is” was released in September, and by January 1965 was a top record on both the Billboard and R&B charts. Here’s a YouTube video of him singing the song in December 1964.

    He headlined the Motortown Revue that year, his name ahead of some of the label’s top acts. Dick Clark and American Bandstand came calling, and he was becoming a crossover performer.


    Four Marvin Gaye albums released in 1964.

    During their tour of the United States that year, the Beatles named Gaye and several other Motown singers among their favorite American performers, along with the “Detroit Sound.” “We like Marvin Gaye,” said John Lennon, when asked which artist or musical group influenced their music. “The Impressions. Marvin Gaye,” said George Harrison.

    The year before had been just as exciting for Gaye, with the singles “Can I Get A Witness,” “Hitchhike” and “Pride and Joy” hitting the charts. All three also were included as tracks on the 1964 “Marvin Gaye Greatest Hits” album.

    He was back in the country by Christmas because he performed with other performers at the Fox Theater in Brooklyn on Christmas Day.

    Gaye was in London again in 1976 in a tour that produced the album “Marvin Gaye Live at the London Palladium” and one of my favorite songs “Got to Give It Up.”


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    1. I saw that Antiques Roadshow too. I was surprised that Passport was worth that much money. I wish I had found it. Marvin is one of my favorites. He’s so handsome in both photos above.

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