Marvin Gaye would have been 80

As a solo artist, Marvin Gaye had future stars such as the Vandellas and the Supremes singing backup for him.

Marvin GayeWe’re coming up to the 80th anniversary of the birth of legendary singer Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939) AND the 35th anniversary of his death at the hands of his own father (April 1, 1984).

In the 1960s, he was one of the most significant artists on the Motown label. Early on, he was a session drummer. He became a successful songwriter.

As a solo artist, he had future stars such as the Vandellas and the Supremes singing backup for him. He had hits with a number of female duet partners. He was a producers for the Originals and others.

Marvin is so cool that he’s been mashed up musically with
The Ramones and Slayer.

I made a list of favorite songs five years ago, but the links no longer work; numbers refer to chart action on the Billboard charts (US). Three Ain’t songs in my Marvin Gaye Top Ten.

21.The Star-Spangled Banner– version performed at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game
19.Let’s Get It On (1 for six weeks RB, 1 pop, 1973)
18.Got to Give It Up (1 for five weeks RB, 1 pop, 1977)
17.I’ll Be Doggone (1 RB, 8 pop, 1965)
16.Pride And Joy (2 for three weeks RB, 10 pop, 1963)

15.You’re All I Need to Get By (with Tammi Terrell) (1 for five weeks RB, 7 pop, 1968)
14.Your Unchanging Love (7 RB, 33 pop, 1967)
13.I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1 for seven weeks, both RB and pop, 1968) – you know how you’ve heard Stairway to Heaven or Freebird too often?
12.It Takes Two (with Kim Weston) (4 RB, 14 pop, 1967)
11.Mercy Mercy Me (1 for two weeks RB, 4 pop, 1971)

10.Sexual Healing (1 for ten weeks RB, 1982; 3 pop, 1983)
9.Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing (with Tammi Terrell) (1 RB, 8 pop, 1968)
8.What’s Going On (1 for five weeks RB, 2 pop, 1971)
7.Hitch Hike (12 RB, 30 pop, 1963)
6.Ain’t That Peculiar (1 RB, 8 pop, 1965)

5.Stubborn Kind Of Fellow (8 RB, 46 pop, 1962) – and he was, in his dealings with Motown founder Berry Gordy and others
4.Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (with Tammi Terrell) (3 for three weeks RB, 19 pop, 1967); Tears Dry on Their Own by Amy Winehouse leans heavily on this version of the Ashford/Simpson hit
3.Piece Of Clay – described here
2.Inner City Blues (1 for two weeks RB, 9 pop, 1971) – STILL makes me want to holler, throw up both my hands…
1.Can I Get a Witness (3 RB, 22 pop, 1963)

Music, April 1971: What’s Going On

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

You probably think you know the story of Marvin Gaye’s standout album, What’s Going On, how the Artist recognized what’s REALLY happening in the world and puts out a album designed to stick it to the Suits at the record company. The actual story was a bit more prosaic.

In fact, the title song began with a wisp of of an idea by Obie Benson, the bass singer of the Four Tops, who thought that maybe he had another song like the Coke commercial, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” He and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland thought it might fit Marvin, but he wasn’t impressed. They pushed, and Marvin gave it some tweaks, thinking he might produce it for the Originals.

In July 1970, he came into the studio, had some football buddies for the party noise, captured sax player Eli Fontaine warming up, and basically fell into a sound. He managed to slip it out as a single in January 1971, while Motown owner/brother-in-law Berry Gordy was out on the West Coast. Gordy thought two things: 1) he hated the song, and 2) wondered where’s followup album was after it became a hit.

The What’s Going On album was recorded in March and released in May, with a second mix by Gaye that defined not only the LP, but changed the expectation of listeners regarding what was expected from a Motown album. I played it a lot in college; Inner City Blues especially STILL seems relevant.

Another Motown artist was giving Berry Gordy headaches. Stevie Wonder was married, living in NYC with new wife Syretta, and about to turn 21. His lawyers sent a letter to Gordy disavowing his Motown contract.

Meanwhile, Stevie discovered The Original New Timbral Orchestra, or TONTO, keyboard system. Wonder had lost interest in his new album, Where I’m Coming From, which was actually the first Stevie album I ever bought, as his own sound was developing.

His next album, Music of My Mind, made in 1971 and released the next year, was more representative of the groove he was going for. The FOUR albums after THAT, all dominant on my turntable in the 1970s won FOUR Grammy albums of the Year awards in five years.

Sly Stone’s album was two years late, and he became “the least reliable superstar in the history of popular music.” The eventual downbeat, indecipherable There’s A Riot Goin’ On, released in November 1971, was a contact high of an album. One did not have to BE stoned to FEEL stoned listening to it.

Was Shaft blaxploitation or black empowerment? It was a movie by noted black photographer Gordon Parks, with Richard Roundtree as the handsome black detective, whose looks drove the lyrics written by STAX artist Isaac Hayes. The “shut your mouth” was delivered by Telma Hopkins, whose hit with Dawn, “Knock Three Times”, came out earlier that year. My sister Leslie owned this double LP, which he had to get partially replaced because the package had two of the same LPs.

Listen To

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
Family Affair – Sly & the Family Stone
I Can’t Get Next to You – Al Green
Toussaint L’Ouverture- Santana

Music Throwback Saturday: Baby, I’m For Real

Marvin Gaye and this then-wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, wrote Baby, I’m for Real

originalsBack in 1990, there were three Motown compilations, now out of print, that I bought. 20 Hard to Find Motown Classics, Volume 1, like its two successors, featured songs by Motown singers who didn’t have enough hits to have their own “Greatest Hits” CDs. But most of the songs were hardly “hard to find.” Many had appeared in other Motown collections.

The three CDs were reissued together in 2001 in the UK as Tamla Motown: Big Hits & Hard to Find Classics, Vols. 1-3. A half dozen songs were dropped.

The first two songs on the first album were by a group called the Originals. The lead singer was Freddie Gorman Continue reading “Music Throwback Saturday: Baby, I’m For Real”

August rambling #2: artificial – flowers and televangelists

A Marvin Gaye/Ramones mashup.


How a ’50s-Era New York Knife Law Landed Thousands in Jail.

Jeff Sharlet interviews Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King.

No matter how sincerely we think we get it, we don’t really get it. “A personal epiphany about race and gender, to my fellow white males.” And Please Stop Being a Good White Person (TM).

Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny. “Win or lose, Trump’s campaign threatens to unleash the Great American Stupid.”

About Josh Duggar’s Ashley Madison Account. Am I the only person who had never HEARD of Ashley Madison until this summer? Continue reading “August rambling #2: artificial – flowers and televangelists”

Almost on the BBC

International code 44 and all that on my message machine.

bbc-radioI had written this blog post on March 28 about the Adagio, attributed to Albinoini, which also appeared in my Times Union blog the same day. On the latter, I received this comment on April 4 at 7:30 a.m.:

Dear Roger,
I’m making a programme for BBC Radio 4, Soul Music about Albinoni’s Adagio. This series looks at those pieces of music that never fail to move us.
I would love to know more about your choir mom.
Please would you be kind enough to email me with your number so we might have a chat.
With many thanks

ALSO, I had written this blog post on April 2 about Marvin Gaye, which again appeared in that day’s TU, and generated THIS comment, also on April 4, at 9:02 a.m.: Continue reading “Almost on the BBC”