Last night my girl, Kisme, was kind enough to post a link on my Facebook page that has the extended trailer for “Sexual Healing” the Marvin Gaye bio-pic with the always awesome Jesse L. Martin playing the tortured crooner. So, I am now all over everything that has to do with the greatest artist to ever grace this earth.
I was lucky enough to grow up with a dad and an older brother who were not only Motown fans, but ones that really dove into the music itself. I’ve been told that my love for Stevie Wonder comes from my father playing “Songs in the Key of Life” nonstop when I was a toddler. My brother may still have his “Motown at 40” record set, I think it was like 5 albums, with Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson narrating in between songs. When dad passed away I tried to sneak that in my stash of records that I took from the attic — that idea was quickly squashed.
The other mainstay in my dad’s – and Randy’s — stereo was Marvin Gaye. What kills me about him is that a lot of people immediately think of his early 80s hit, Sexual Healing, the classic album What’s Going On, or right now, thanks to Robin Thicke, the classic Got to Give it Up (personally, I love Blurred Lines – so I’m not going to throw any shade his way). I won’t attempt to tell you the history of Marvin — that’s all over the internet and, I think, an episode of TVONE’s Unsung.
However, if you are either “new” to Marvin Gaye (don’t forget about that awesomeness that is Tammi Terrell – his singing partner for years), or have a small collection of his music, I’d like to recommend the following albums which will give you a completely different look at this soulful crooner:
“Here my Dear” was done as part of a divorce settlement from his first wife, Anna Gordy. The songs take a look at him, Anna, love and marriage. I’m telling you, even though it was a “quickie” it is a classic in my mind. Individually each track stands on its own, but it is an album that is better listened to as one – personally, I don’t throw a track or two on my random play lists. This is for when I’m cooking or sitting out on my patio drinking on a random evening.
“Midnight Love” – his last studio album before his untimely death (and it has his classic Sexual Healing), it is both haunting and pure Marvin through and through. I can listen to this on auto-repeat for days. I believe the movie is focusing on this time of his life.
“Vulnerable” – Marvin always wanted to sing the Standards, but Berry Gordy didn’t want that. It was all-Motown all the time, or nothing. This album shows that Marvin had the chops to pull off classic Jazz/American standards without losing his “voice” to the music itself. This is another “get a glass of wine” type album.
If you want to, however, just dive into a full Marvin collection, I would like to recommend Marvin Gaye: The Master – a 4-CD set of pure and utter awesomeness. Like other box sets, all the music is done chronologically so you can actually experience Marvin maturing as you listen to each CD. It’s worth every penny — trust me.
And, to finish this post out, I’d like to show you my all-time favorite Marvin Gaye moment – when he sang the National Anthem at an All-Star Game here in Los Angeles. After 9-11 most of the R&B radio stations in DC would begin their morning shows (6AM) with this rendition. Actually, I think even after 12 years a couple still do. The only other artist I’ve seen able to pull this off was D’Angelo at a boxing match about 10 years ago – he had our small boxing party up clapping, and me running into my bedroom looking for the Marvin version. Unfortunately, R. Kelly tried something similar by turning it into one of his step songs…..bad idea. Ya don’t mess with the National Anthem, especially if your creativity is the same freakin’ music you use for pretty much every other fast song you’ve done in the past decade (I do not like R. Kelly).