July 7, 2010 / 7:10 AM / 9 years ago

Doo-wop star, Motown executive Harvey Fuqua dies

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Harvey Fuqua, a former doo-wop star with the Moonglows who went on to launch Marvin Gaye’s career as well as his comeback, died in Detroit on Tuesday, the Motown Alumni Association said. He was 80.

He succumbed to what an association official called “coronary problems” after a brief illness.

The versatile artist, entrepreneur and executive also shepherded the careers of such acts as Etta James, the Spinners, and Junior Walker & the All Stars.

According to Gaye biographer David Ritz, Gaye considered Fuqua his surrogate father. “Harvey saved my life,” Gaye once told Ritz. (Gaye was murdered by his real father in 1984.)

Fuqua enlisted Gaye in the Moonglows in 1958, and later brought him to Motown. He produced (with Johnny Bristol) Gaye’s duets with Tammi Terrell, including the Ashford and Simpson-pennd “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love.” Additionally they produced and co-wrote (with Vernon Bullock) the duo’s 1967 single “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You.”

In the early 1980s, as the troubled Motown star was trying to mount a comeback while battling drugs and personal problems, Fuqua joined him at his new base on Ostend, Belgium, to help him record his smash single “Sexual Healing.” Fuqua is credited as “production adviser” on the ensuing album “Midnight Love,” the last released in Gaye’s lifetime.

Fuqua himself got his big break with the Moonglows, a group he formed in his Louisville, Kentucky, hometown in 1951. They were discovered in Cleveland by rock ‘n’ roll DJ Alan Freed, who got them signed to Chess Records. The Fuqua-penned tune “Sincerely” cracked the top 30 in 1955, and he sang lead on their best-known song, 1958’s “Ten Commandments of Love.”

Gaye joined the Moonglows that year after Fuqua discarded the old lineup, but the doo-wop era was waning as the decade drew to a close.

Fuqua headed to Detroit and set up his own labels, Harvey and Tri-Phi Records, whose roster included Gaye and the Spinners. He also produced records for future Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, as well as Chess tracks for one-time girlfriend Etta James.

Fuqua’s roster was absorbed by the fledging Motown label, where he headed the artist development department and married founder Berry Gordy’s sister, Gwen. Gaye would marry another sister, Anna.

He eventually left the label in 1971, signed a production deal with RCA Records, discovered flamboyant disco singer Sylvester, worked as Smokey Robinson’s road manager, and reunited the Moonglows. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Eric Walsh

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