Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.
(Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Saturday marked the 83rd birth anniversary for one of the great musical loves of my life. Marvin Gaye was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. and became one of the most definitive soul voices in music history. Below is the tribute post I wrote for him on my blog from April 2, 2020.
Today’s marks what would have been Marvin Gaye’s birthday. He sang some of the greatest songs to come out of the Motor City including today’s pick. It was his first career number one record, and for a while it was the best selling hit on the Motown label, spending seven weeks in the top spot.
I can still remember the first time I heard this song. I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car and from the second it came on the radio, I felt something inside of me tremble. Like a part of me I did not even know I had suddenly woke up and made its presence known. It was strong, and steady and felt so familiar yet so new at the same time. It was as if I suddenly had an internal voice that was singing all on its own without any help from my real voice. Years later I would hear the phrase “soul music” and I realized that is why they call it that-because it is music that hits you in the deepest place. And that is what I felt in the car that day.
Marvin Gaye circa 1964. (Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Gaye had one of the greatest voices ever, not just in the soul genre. He was also a talented musician playing piano, synthesizers and drums. Despite being a solo artist he performed several duets during his career, most notably with Tammi Terrell. He also wrote and/or co-wrote several hits for other artists including Martha & the Vandellas (“Dancing In The Street”), the Marvelettes (“Beechwood 4-5789″) and the Originals (“Baby, I’m For Real”). He wrote many of his own songs as well, and as the turbulence of the 1960’s became too hard for him to ignore, he channeled his feelings into songs about the war (“What’s Going On”), social injustice (“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”) and the state of the environment (“Mercy Mercy Me”), amongst others.
Gaye took some time off in the late 1970’s for personal reasons including his exit from the Motown label. He signed with CBS Records and came back stronger than ever in 1982 with his album “Midnight Love” which included another number one hit, “Sexual Healing”. That song earned him his first two Grammy Awards after over 20 years as a recording artist. Also in 1983, he sang an incredibly soulful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the NBA All Star Game. While he was in the middle of his enormous comeback tour, I was lucky enough to see him give a magnetic performance at Radio City Music Hall. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.
So many singers have died tragically young either by drugs, plane crashes, car accidents or suicide. But Gaye was the third of my musical heroes to be shot to death-first Sam Cooke (one of Gaye’s idols) in 1964 and then John Lennon in 1980. In those two tragedies both men died by a stranger’s hand. Gaye was killed by his own father on April 1, 1984. I have never fully recovered from the senselessness of that act. I wonder almost daily what else this unbelievably talented man would have accomplished in his career.
“People say believe half of what you see, son
And none of what you hear
But I can’t help bein’ confused
If it’s true please tell me dear“.
Gaye circa 1971. (Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Marvin Gaye: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (1968, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong).
Stay safe & well.