Gaye changed his vocal style in the late 1960s, when he was advised to use a sharper, raspy voice—especially in Norman Whitfield's recordings. Gaye initially disliked the new style, considering it out of his range, but said he was "into being produce-able. " After listening to David Ruffin and Levi Stubbs, Gaye said he started to develop what he called his "tough man voice"—saying, "I developed a growl. " In the liner notes of his DVD set, Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing in Performance 1964–1981, Rob Bowman said that by the early 1970s, Gaye had developed "three distinct voices: his smooth, sweet tenor; a growling rasp; and an unreal falsetto. " Bowman further wrote that the recording of the What's Going On single was ". . . the first single to utilize all three as Marvin developed a radical approach to constructing his recordings by layering a series of contrapuntal background vocal lines on different tracks, each one conceived and sung in isolation by Marvin himself. " Bowman found that Gaye's multi-tracking of his tenor voice and other vocal styles "summon[ed] up what might be termed the ancient art of weaving". 
Janis Gaye , one of the 17 children of pioneering musician Slim Gaillard , spent the early years of her life in foster care, ultimately going to live with her mother as a teenager. She met her future husband Marvin Gaye when she was just 17. While their love affair produced two children, Nona and Frankie, their relationship was ultimately doomed by Marvin’s drug addiction as well a his physical, emotional and sexual abuse.