Today would have been Marvin Gaye’s 70th birthday.
Yesterday marked 25 years since the soul legend’s murder at the hands of his own father.
Although I was only 7, I distinctly remember sitting at home on April 1st, 1984, when the news came on the radio that Marvin had been killed. Up until that point, I only really knew “Sexual Healing”, and at the time I was more confused about why someone would kill their own son than I was lamenting the death of one of the greatest soul singers of our time.
With a quarter-century’s perspective, obviously things have changed. While I still can’t fathom a father killing his own child, I’ve long since discovered Marvin’s music, from the anguished, socio-political “What’s Going On” to the bittersweet divorce drama “Here, My Dear” (my personal favorite-you guys should check out the 2-disc reissue of it that came out last year). I hate to resort to cliche, but damn if I wouldn’t sit down and listen to Marvin sing the phone book. The man was certainly one of the most consistent artists of the Seventies. Every album he released during that decade is a keeper, and although he lost a step in the Eighties, “In Our Lifetime” and “Midnight Love” are worthy additions to any R&B fans catalog.
In addition, the man sang about sex more passionately than any singer before or since (with the possible exception of pre-Jehovah era Prince). Unlike singers like R. Kelly (who unjustly gets compared to Marvin when he doesn’t have a tenth of MArvin’s talent), he doesn’t make it sound crass or one-sided. You can tell from his delivery that it’s just as important for the other party (or parties, given that Marvin was kind of a freak) to be satisfied as it is for him to be satisfied.
Listening to Marvin Gaye sing brings you back to a time when singers could articulate emotions. The man could do anguish, festive, contemplative, horny…no matter what he was feeling, it was expressed through his music. It’s another cliche, but they just don’t make ’em like that anymore.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with video of the man singing our national anthem. If you haven’t heard this one before, be prepared to be blown away.
Happy birthday, Marvin. Hope you’re relaxing (and freaking) in paradise.