A Letter to Marvin Gaye

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Dear Marvin,

April 2nd of this year would have seen you celebrating your 72nd birthday. Sadly, April 1st is also the 27th anniversary since your passing from a fatal gunshot wound.

Your legacy has created an enduring musical output whose influence still reverberates to this day. One of Motown’s most beloved artists, you bucked the controlling system held firmly in place at the label during your 1970’s period thereby opening up the floodgates for some truly transcendental albums which would be released from the label thereon. In 1972, on May 21st (my birthday!) the seminal “What’s Going On” was released. Berry Gordy initially was reluctant to release the album fearing it was “too serious” for the general buying public (a.k.a. ‘white audience’) to embrace. Yet the album skyrocketed on the Pop charts eventually selling 3 million copies and inspiring whole generations of musicians with its political overtones in a lush R&B musical context. Marvin, somehow you and your collaborators created a masterpiece who’s message is still relevant in our modern, troubled times.

You continued breaking down barriers. Your incomparable vocal styles honed singing gospel and doo-wop in your teenage years were the driving force of your next album “Let’s Get It On”. Black music had always embodied seduction but the sound of moans on a commercial album with lyrics such as “Oh baby, please turn yourself around…oh baby, so I can love you good” was UNHEARD of. Janis, your new lover, muse and future wife, inspired a moment of revolution in music. Whether already in missionary or doggy style, we don’t know but damn Marvin – you were getting DOWN and inspiring generations of others to do the same! Your seduction suites continued with the Leon Ware penned “I Want You” album where you became so bold as to refrain “I want to give you some head”. Such raw sentiments were rarely sung outside the chitlin circuit. But your rawness always contained elegance…right on, now THAT’S talent! 😉

1978’s “Here, My Dear” was inspired by your divorce from Anna Gordy. Selling underwhelmingly upon its release, over the years it has on taken a life of its own becoming known as the “divorce album”. The autobiographical lyrics riding atop the many grooves set a precedent for honest personal testimonial in lyrical expression that to this author has only consistently seen explored within the Hip-Hop music genre.

When you made your move to Sony and released the “Midnight Love” album you were experiencing a resurgent peak in your career. Considering that you were in your 40’s, it showed how powerful honest, masterful singing and sincere intent could transcend stereotypes that only “young artists” could sell units on the pop charts. Which is why having your life taken from us is a tragedy many of us still mourn in the depth of our hearts. You were, because you ARE musical brilliance and vocal genius personified.

You had an extensive catalogue that-predated your 70’s output and which introduced your talents wonderfully to the world. “I heard it Through the Grapevine”, “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” and your classic duets with some of Motown’s finest divas such as Tammi Terrell (‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’, ‘If This World Were Mine’) and Diana Ross (‘You Are Everything’) have stood, and thrived, with the test of time. But it’s your seminal 1970’s work whose influence arguably has the strongest grasp. Your soul, passion, conscious-raising intent, spiritual vibrations and diligence to the craft of recorded music have touched and continue to touch so many. We still feel your influence lingering. One beautiful tribute came coutresy of Teena Marie titled “My Dear Mr. Gaye” which featured on her biggest selling album to date, ‘Starchild’. Without question it was the interpolating of “You’re All I Need To Get By” which secured a massive hit (and Grammy Award) for the collaboration between Method Man & Mary J. Blige. Erick Sermon enjoyed renewed chart success with his poignantly edited interpolation of your acapella for “I’ve Got My Music”. Whole tribute albums have been dedicated solely to you, one even featuring your beautiful daughter Nona Gaye. You still continue to live on through Hip-Hop/R&B music as well. Artists as diverse as DeLaSoul, Jay-Z, Scarface, Ice Cube, Bahamadia, Pharcyde, Tweet & Aaliyah through either sampling or covering your work have added a dimension of lushness to their own musical output.

My dear Marvin Gaye – we love the gifts you offered and miss you greatly. But beyond any sadness we may feel, thank you for the great memories we hold with your voice being at the fore to the soundtrack of our lives.

Sincerely,

Michelle JB a.k.a. MsMerising

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Conversation for album: A Letter to Marvin Gaye

26 Comments
  • Terence
    Posted at 12:26h, 07 April 2011

    A Legend. So much meaning then and now..

  • myr
    Posted at 13:39h, 07 April 2011

    one of the best…

  • adam
    Posted at 14:53h, 07 April 2011

    respect to the master…..4 of the best ( Personal rating order would put “I Want You” & “Here my Dear ” just a neck infront of “whats going on ” with “lets get in on coming a very honourable 4th…still of the best ever….WE ALL MISS YOU MARVIN…PEACE !!

  • Rowenta
    Posted at 21:43h, 07 April 2011

    Marvin was so smooth,he just had it all.I believe I could listen to him sing all day and night and never tire of his soothing sound,purely Angelic and soulful,there will never be another like him.Thanks for posting this..

  • Amelia
    Posted at 09:15h, 08 April 2011

    The epitome of smooth R&B. Grew up with him. For ever in my heart.

  • Brotherpete
    Posted at 13:02h, 08 April 2011

    supergood !!!

  • Nandia
    Posted at 14:23h, 08 April 2011

    Marvin Gaye is by far of the best R&B male artist of all time. It is so sad that he died at the hand of his father. R.I.P. Marvin and thank you for all these treasures. You were and still are one of a kind.

  • rhys
    Posted at 15:34h, 08 April 2011

    who knows what he would have come up with if he hadn’t died so young. Perhaps nothing more than the sexual crooning of his last years but perhaps another ‘what’s going on’. either way, he’ll be missed, an artist so good he inspired the commodores to write their only good song !

  • George
    Posted at 14:42h, 09 April 2011

    tHANK UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU­UU 4 POSTING!

  • Soul is the Music
    Posted at 10:54h, 10 April 2011

    Marvin Gaye was one of THE most important singing artists/stylists of the 1960s/70s and early 1980s. From 1962 to the time of his tragic death in April 1984 he had 60 R&B singles hits, most of which also scored on the Billboard Pop Hot 100 for Motown’s Tamla subsidiary.

    Following his death, three more would make the R&B charts, including My Last Chance, released in 1990 on Motown. He was also inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame in 1987, and in 1996 was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • Janis
    Posted at 10:56h, 10 April 2011

    There are some voices that–no matter where you are or what you are doing–stop you in your tracks and command you to listen. Aretha Franklin, Smoky Robinson ..and MARVIN GAYE. He will always be remembered for the smooth sweetness of his tone, the poetry of his words . . . and the conscience his voice lent to an era.

  • William
    Posted at 13:19h, 10 April 2011

    Arguably one of the most gifted, visionary, positive thinking musicians of our time, that took the negativity of the issues around him (War, Urban Crime, Moral dissatisfaction), and used parts of his music to promote social awareness of the world around us….

  • Mick
    Posted at 08:59h, 11 April 2011

    Superb post!

  • Harry
    Posted at 12:31h, 11 April 2011

    Excellent discography. Welcome back guys.

  • Roger
    Posted at 14:16h, 11 April 2011

    Marvin Gaye sang from the heart, put all of his soul into the songs he blessed us with.

  • A Brother
    Posted at 14:21h, 11 April 2011

    marvin was the truth.man could he sing, write, he couldnt dance tho…

    luv u marvin 4eva 

  • the jazzstronaut
    Posted at 23:08h, 11 April 2011

    Fine tribute, what a loss.
    Cheers.

  • Andreas
    Posted at 08:33h, 12 April 2011

    I love Marvin. People in the 70’s were so much happier than they are now..I sure wish that life was as simple now as it was then. We will never see those times again.

  • Bailey
    Posted at 12:30h, 12 April 2011

    Well done..thank you for the quality posts.

  • Louiza
    Posted at 18:36h, 12 April 2011

    Love this man with my heart & soul! ♥

  • Dean
    Posted at 08:34h, 13 April 2011

    Very elegant – thank you so much!

  • Sofia
    Posted at 21:23h, 14 April 2011

    The man was great and he made real love music.

  • dj new york city
    Posted at 23:38h, 14 April 2011

    Awesome post, love his “detroit” version of What’s Goin On on his rarities album. If you want to listen here:
    http://www.discjockeynyc.com/2010/07/marvin-gaye-whats-going-on-original-detroit-mix.html

  • Trakbuv
    Posted at 09:46h, 16 April 2011

    Wonderful moving, heartfelt ode to the man, the myth, the legend MsMerising. No-one could match his ability to mix raspy gut-level soul with tender sophisticated smooth like Marvin could. And when I listen to all his outakes of his later LPs that have been released posthumously, I marvel even more deeply transfixed by his majesty. Thank you Marvin indeed.

  • whoknows
    Posted at 23:38h, 31 May 2011

    FUNK yeahhhhh!!!!!!! A beautiful piece…thank you…

  • Greg
    Posted at 17:20h, 22 March 2012

    classic shit !
    cheers.