Saturday, September 20, 2008

Random Thoughts on Marvin Gaye

The absence of Marvin Gaye is deeply felt in today's music. Some people feel that he was just a great crooner and nothing else. I think that Marvin Gaye's talent was (and is) often overlooked.

As I rediscover his music and learn more about his life in reading (and rereading) his biographies, I'm coming to the realization that Marvin Gaye was a visionary. He transformed the music of his childhood (jazz, blues, gospel, and mainly doo-wop) into a completely unique sound that became his signature. Marvin Gaye lived and breathed music. Those closest to him said that he practically lived in his recording studio. He could sing in any pitch and play almost every instrument that he touched.

Many people have said, including Smokey Robinson, that Gaye should have stayed in Belgium and never returned to the United States. Perhaps that's true. But how often do we say that of so many tragedies in music history? I often wished that John Lennon never left The Dakota (NYC) on December 8, 1980, or that Sam Cooke didn't go to the Hacienda Motel (Los Angeles) on December 11, 1964. There were so many great losses in music--too many to name. But for me, Marvin Gaye's death still has an impact--as if he were a close friend or even a family member.

It's the honesty that Marvin Gaye puts in all of his music that I feel connected to the most. Never have I heard an artist (maybe Richard Pryor) talk freely about sex, love, war, marriage, and even divorce in their art. He was just an honest creature. And in a world filled with deceit and cynicism, honesty can become easily corrupted. The temptation for Gaye was everywhere he turned--from prostitutes to drugs to the ultimate battle with his own father, Marvin Gay, Sr., who shot his son to death on April 1, 1984, just one day shy of his 45th birthday.

This past summer, I've been consumed by Marvin Gaye--from his biographies, his albums (post-Tammi Terrell) and his documentaries and performances. I think it's the heavens telling me to do something with all of it...and so I will. Not sure what it's going to look like just yet, but this will be a fun and painful project for me. This could very well become my first play--who knows!!

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