When Marvin Gaye joined Motown, he went with his strengths. He wanted to work only in the studio. He hated touring and was sure he lacked the charisma and other gifts that made some musicians great onstage. This didn’t really fit the label’s strengths, and he struggled to find his footing.
In 1962, Berry Gordy sent Gaye on tour with other Motown acts. While Gaye wasn’t naturally a performer, he was competitive. The tour managers discovered that if they put Little Stevie Wonder on just before Gaye, something extraordinary happened. Wonder was a crowd pleaser, a magician at getting fans excited. After a few shows, Gaye realized that he had to dramatically raise his on-stage game if he was going to be able to keep his gig.
Two days after the tour ended, Gaye was in the studio recording what became his first Top 40 hit. He became known as much for his live performances as his music.
His charisma was a skill, not something he was born with.
It’s up to us if we want it to be.