Nona Gaye, her daughter confirmed her mother’s passing in an official statement.
“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 Gaye said. “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, and 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,” her statement continued. “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.”
Hunter Gaye was the daughter of musician Slim Gaillard, who was best known for his 1938 song “Flat Foot Floogie (With a Floy Floy).”
During a recording session in 1973 at Hitsville West in Los Angeles, she was introduced to Gaye by producer Ed Townsend. Gaye was working on his landmark album Let’s Get It On, which was released that year. At the time, he was married to Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy. Hunter Gaye was 17, he was 34.
Eventually, the two fell madly in love and Gaye wrote the song “Jan” in her honor for his 1974 album, Marvin Gaye Live!
According to her family, Hunter Gaye used her flare for fashion to put together one of Gaye’s legendary ensembles — a red watch cap, beaded denim shirt, and silver red-laced platform boots—that Gaye wore for his legendary 1974 concert at the Oakland Coliseum.
In 1976, Janis was the muse behind Gaye’s seductive album I Want You which has been described as “a romantic and erotic tribute” to her. Also, she was a background vocalist on Gaye’s 1977 single“Got to Give It Up,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and they were married that year. The couple divorced in 1981.
Years later, Hunter Gaye went on to manage Nona’s career. The singer and actress released two albums and appeared in films such as Ali, Crash, and two Matrix films.
In 2015, Hunter Gaye released her memoir After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye,
Janis Hunter Gaye is survived by her sister Shawnn Monteiro, her brother Mark Gaillard, her children Nona and Frankie, and grandson Nolan Pentz.
We at Ebony extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Janis Hunter Gaye.