Wednesday, March 11, 2015
And Now The Nicsperiment's Secret Love for the Music of Marvin Gaye Can Come to Light
My early childhood awareness of Marvin Gaye was rather rudimentary. I clearly remember his death, and I remember his songs being played frequently at the time, but I didn't really delve into his work until high school. In those teenage years, I dove into only one aspect of Marvin's work: his sex songs. Basically, 16-year old me could not believe that some dude had not only recorded songs called "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing" before Clinton had been elected, but also that those songs were and were still being played on the radio. If they were played on the radio, then I could just ironically drop lyrics from them whenever I wanted without consequence. Thus were borne excellently mistranslated lines in French class, "le chat est noir" coming out in English as, "If the spirit moves you, let me groove you." Awkward moments at Beta dances where I somehow convinced the aging DJ to allow me to watch confused teenagers look at speakers suddenly belting out the lines, "I've been really tryin', baby, tryin' to hold back these feelings for so long..." Giving teachers that were annoying me snarky nicknames, like Edith "When I Get This Feeling, I Need Sexual Healing" Atkinson. Sorry, Mrs. Edith, but you did throw an eraser at me and call me a communist.
It wasn't until after college that I was introduced to the deeper aspects of Marvin's music. On a whim one day, I picked up David Ritz's Marvin Gaye biography, Divided Soul. I was immediately engrossed, finding Marvin to be a sort of kindred spirit, picked up What's Going On, and had my consciousness expanded. The music, lyrics, and Marvin's voice in particular, mesmerized me. Traditionally, I have leaned toward female vocalists, but Marvin's voice hit upon emotions I had never heard another man exemplify so eloquently. I then picked up the six albums Marvin released after What's Going On, but before his untimely death, and I was nearly as floored.
I just reviewed six albums by a band who is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Now here are reviews of seven albums recorded for everyone.*
*I don't mean to disservice Marvin's pre-What's Going On work. He recorded some incredible songs back then. "Heard It Through the Grapevine" is one of my favorite songs of all time. But it wasn't until What's Going On that Marvin truly began to create "albums."*