Janis Hunter Gaye Dies At 66

The stylist, manager, and author was Marvin Gaye’s second wife.

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Janis Gaye and Marvin Gaye - Photo: Courtesy of UMe
Janis Gaye and Marvin Gaye - Photo: Courtesy of UMe

Stylist, manager, and author, Janis Gaye–the second wife of Motown legend Marvin Gaye and the subject of several of his songs–died Saturday, December 3, at her home in Rhode Island. She was 66 years old. She is survived by her sister, Shawnn Monteiro, her brother Mark Gaillard, her children, Nona and Frankie, and grandson Nolan Pentz.

Stated Nona Gaye, “I am deeply saddened by the passing of my mother, Janis Gaye. 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 – brothers, sisters in every part of this beautiful and painful planet. Every day she was here it was about the love she felt for her husband, children, grandson, and the friends she met all over the world.

“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. 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.”

“From the first memory of my grandmother, I knew then and now, how much she cared about her family and the warmth she gave to all of us. I will always be grateful for all the memories. She also cared about so many people in the world, and I will do everything I can to put into action the things she wanted and help continue the Gaye legacy,” added Nolan Pentz, her grandson. Further commenting, Nona Gaye stated, “my mom was immensely proud of her grandson, Nolan, and how he stepped up as a young man, like a soldier, to help the family and lend support in times of need.”

The famous author/activist bell hooks called Jan, “One of the most honest and courageous women I’ve ever met.”

Born January 6, 1956, the daughter of Barbara Hunter and the artist Slim Gaillard, Jan would meet Marvin during the recording session for “Let’s Get It On.”

Marvin wrote the song “Jan” for his future wife, recording it on his 1974 hit Motown album, Live!, while making her the topic of the No.1 album, I Want You, released in 1976. His hit single, “Got To Give It Up,” from 1977, featured Jan on background vocals.

Ms. Gaye acted as Marvin’s costume designer, putting together the iconic outfit he wore for the famed Oakland concert—the silver red-laced platform boots, the beaded denim shirt, the red watch cap.

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