In the comments to the Marvin Gaye piece below, Kenny reminded me of another one of my all-time faves.
I should maybe add that I don’t disagree at all with Kenny’s evaluation of What’s Going On, either. I always liked Gaye, but as far as I’m concerned his best work was already behind him by the time WGO came out. His latter-day stuff, although certainly influential and bold, just left me cold for the most part, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise in the earlier post. More deets on “Peculiar,” and on Marvin Gaye himself:
“Ain’t That Peculiar” is a 1965 song recorded by American soul musician Marvin Gaye for the Tamla (Motown) label. The single was produced by Smokey Robinson, and written by Robinson, and fellow Miracles members Ronald White, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin. “Ain’t That Peculiar” features Gaye, with The Andantes on backing vocals, singing about the torment of a painful relationship.
The single was Gaye’s second U.S. million seller successfully duplicating its predecessor “I’ll Be Doggone”, from earlier in 1965 by topping Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart in the fall of 1965, peaking at #8 on the US Pop Singles chart. It became one of Gaye’s signature 1960s recordings, and was his best-known solo hit before 1968’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”.
Marvin’s accompanied with background vocalist The Andantes: Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps with instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and Marvin Tarplin of The Miracles (guitars).
Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits, including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, and duet recordings with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”. During the 1970s, he recorded the concept albums What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On and became one of the first artists in Motown to break away from the reins of its production company. Gaye’s later recordings influenced several R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo-soul.
Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, Gaye released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing” and the Midnight Love album. Since his death in 1984, Gaye has been posthumously honored by many institutions, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At around 11:38 am on April 1, 1984, as Marvin was seated on his bed talking to his mother, Gaye’s father shot at Marvin twice. The first shot, which entered the right side of Gaye’s chest, was fatal, having perforated his vital organs. Gaye was taken to the emergency room of the California Hospital Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival at 1:01 pm. Gaye died a day before turning 45. The gun with which Marvin Gaye, Sr. shot his son was given to him by Marvin as a Christmas present.
Another gifted musician dogged, and eventually doomed, by what’s generally known as a “troubled” personal life—an old story, a common one, and a tragic one. We’ve lost all too many of our greatest artists due to their “troubled” tendencies, one way or another. It’s long been my own belief that those “troubled” personal lives very often come along with the territory of creative genius. That maybe, just maybe, you only rarely get the one without the other—as if a skewed, reckless personality actually feeds the creative bent, both of them being integral components of the artistic soul. The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, as the saying goes.