Janis Hunter Gaye, Second Wife of Marvin Gaye, Dead at 66

Janis Hunter Gaye met the legendary at age 17, and they welcomed two children before divorcing in 1982

an Gaye attends Songwriters Hall Of Fame 47th Annual Induction And Awards at Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 9, 2016 in New York City.
Janis Hunter Gaye. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty

Janis Hunter Gaye, the second wife of legendary singer Marvin Gaye, has died. She was 66.

Janis, with whom the "Let's Get It On" singer shared two children, died on Saturday at her home in Rhode Island, family members told The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death was given.

"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," daughter Nona Gaye told the outlet in a statement. "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."

Marvin Gaye died in April 1984 at age 44 after he was shot and killed by his father.

He and Janis first met in the early 1970s, when she was just 17 and Gaye was still married to Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown records founder Berry Gordy.

R&B singer Marvin Gaye poses for a portrait at an event with his wife Janice Gaye on October 31, Halloween, 1977 in Los Angeles, California.
Janis Hunter Gaye and Marvin Gaye in 1977. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

In her 2015 memoir After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye, Janis recalled their first meeting, which took place after producer Ed Townsend, a friend of her mother's, brought the teenager to Gaye's recording studio.

"I was convinced that on this night of nights my world had turned upside down," she wrote. "I had met the love of my life."

Though the two shared a 17-year age difference, they began an affair, and were eventually married in 1977. Daughter Nona was born in 1974 and son Frankie arrived the next year.

"People around us were skeptical. People were saying that the difference in age would do us in," Janis wrote in her memoir. "For a 33-year-old married man to start up with a girl barely 17 was scandalous. But scandal excited Marvin's rebellious spirit."

Jan Gaye speaks onstage at An Evening With Marvin Gaye's You're The Man at the GRAMMY Museum on April 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Janis Hunter Gaye. Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

During their time together, Janis served as inspiration for the song "Jan," which included lyrics like, "I'm the luckiest man/And I'm her greatest fan/There is no sweeter girl in all the land." She also contributed backing vocals to Gaye's No. 1 single "Got to Give It Up" in 1977.

Their union was tumultuous at times, and Gaye admitted to PEOPLE in 1983 that he'd once menaced Janis with a knife after they separated, and also arranged for their then-4-year-old son to be kidnapped in Hawaii. She filed for divorce from the star in 1982.

Survivors include Nona, an actress and singer whose career Janis managed, Frankie, her sister Shawnn, her brother Mark and grandson Nolan, according to THR.

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