Bonus Gaye!

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.

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Georgiaboy61

Marvin Gaye’s greatest works, so go the legend, occurred only after he gained greater independence musically, and got out from under Berry Gordy’s production machine. Concurrently, around the time the late 1960s and 1970s hit, with all of their turmoil. David Ritz, whose book “Divided Soul:The Life of Marvin Gaye,” concerned the singer in all of his complexities, relates that as the 1960s went on, Gaye asked himself why he was still singing songs of romance when Vietnam was happening, when the civil rights era and the flower-power counterculture were going on, and when public figures like JFK, MLK and RFK were being gunned down.

There is little denying that Gaye produced some of his most-ambitious and far-ranging works during the late prime of his career, echoing Stevie Wonder, another great Motown artist who moved in a more-topical direction with the new decade.

Yet, great music stands the test of time, and whereas some of Gaye’s more-experimental/topical works (such as his LP about his divorce) haven’t aged all that well, his hits from his mid-1960s prime still hold up remarkably well. That’s due to the singer himself of course, but also due to the remarkable Motown studio band, the “Funk Brothers,” who backed him on so many of those sides.

“Ain’t That Peculiar” has an irresistible groove propelled by Benny Benjamin’s drums and James Jamerson’s bass. The interlocking guitars of Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina provide melody, rhythmic propulsion, and groove. And so much more. All tightly-produced according to the Holland-Dozier-Holland formula. Two-and-a-half or maybe three minutes of musical heaven in a 45RPM record!

So, “What’s Going On” isn’t all there is to the genius of Marvin Gaye. Take a look a bit further back; you’ll be glad you did.

kennycan

As much as it was a great song and delivered excellently by Gaye the singer, the Funk Brothers, and that bass and drums groove in particular, are one the finest examples of the genius of the Motown sound created by the production team and that House Band.

Paul McCartney was harrying George Martin to get that kind of punch to his bass parts on record.

That’s how important they were.

kennycan

Don’t get me wrong, I understand how Tammi Terrell’s death really shook him. It was obvious he was in love with her and the publicity machine that was Motown had to hush that up.

Some artists take these tragedies to churn out some real masterpieces because they dig down into themselves and go with the pain regardless of how much it hurts. In some cases it becomes a catharsis and healing.

In Gaye’s case it was not his Layla moment because he chose to avoid the very thing that was troubling him. Instead the whole football escapade is telling. He was actually doing everything he could to avoid the issues he was dealing with. The drugs and alcohol were an avoidance mechanism. Now, for Clapton, that was similar, but for a different reason. After losing Hendrix and losing his Layla he then lost his kindred spirit when Duane dies. I have to believe finally chasing down his dream to become “relevant” was out of character for Gaye. Maybe he wanted to be the new Voice of His People, the Dylan of the Black Is Beautiful Movement. However, what his nature really was about was being a Healer, a Bridge Builder. The man who could write songs that bridged the gaps between Black and White, between the Male Sexuality of the Alpha Male and the Strong Women he encountered. The bitter Feminists would never bridge that gap, but the real Alpha Females could not only understand that, they could admire that.

Leftism is a Divider. As soon as he decided to actually dive in to his desire to be a Voice of the Leftist Black Movement he avoided the very heart of his nature. Was it just another way to avoid his loss? Who knows. I’ll say this though. We’ve all noticed that Leftists end up substituting Leftism for religion, turning it into a Godless Religion for themselves. So, why not grab hold of Leftism to fill that hole he felt when he lost Tammi?

Like so many, it ended up doing more harm than good.

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