Friday, February 08, 2008

trouble man (repost)

This is a repost to tie in with the fact that Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear has been reissued in an expanded set just in time for Valentine's Day - a nice bit of marketing for Marvin's "divorce album". I haven't got the expanded set yet but I will be doing asap as it's still a fascinating and soulful album from a truly tortured genius.

If any of you have been with us for a while, you'll be pleased to note that I've added an extra track to the original selection
My favourite Marvin Gaye album is also his most misunderstood, his 1978 divorce settlement release, Here, My Dear. When Marvin divorced Anna Gordy in 1976 he was so hard up that his lawyers came up with a solution whereby Anna would receive Marvin's advances for his next album and recoup the royalties until an agreed amount was reached. Marvin initially didn't want to put much effort into the album, as his ex-wife would get all the money. But he gradually became obsessed with the project, viewing it as a way to finally rid himself of Anna.

The misconception is that Here, My Dear is Marvin pouring his heart into the microphone, exemplified by the album's keystone, "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You". But I think the truth is more revealing, twisted and way more interesting!

Throughout most of the album, Marvin is keen to portray himself as the hard-done-by divorcee, chewed up and spat out by a wife who had been evil and unfaithful. Bear in mind this is the man who had (in 1973) performed the whole "Let's Get It On" album as a love letter to Janis Hunter, then aged 16 (one key track on that album was co-written with Anna Gordy!). By the time the divorce came through 3 years later Marvin and Janis were living together with two children.

Marvin Gaye - You Can Leave, But It's Going To Cost You

The album as a whole is an extreme example of someone telling their side of the story - they didn't have Heat in those days, I guess... But knowing that most of the accusations Marvin makes (that Anna stopped him from seeing their child, amongst other tasty tit-bits) are either made up, wildly embroidered or told from the exaggerated viewpoint of "the wronged man", far from making the album ridiculous, actually makes it a fascinating peek into... well, I guess you have to call it quintessentially male self-pity.

Marvin Gaye - Time To Get It Together

Just to add to the complicated texture of this album, this deliciously funky groove crops up early on in the album, which seems to be one of the few tracks where Marvin takes at least some responsibility for the state of his life. Chillingly as the song ends, it's as though he's predicting his early death - "racing against time, trying my best to find my way... getting in and out my clothes, fooling round with midnight ho's, but that's just how my life goes", until it ends with, "From the day you're born 'til the day you're in the ground". Cod psychologists can have a field day.

From stuff I've read, Marvin appears self-obsessed and deeply troubled. By this time, most of his money had gone up his nose (hence the bizarre divorce settlement). Marvin was perpetually plagued by performance anxiety (both public and private), which made it even harder for him to live up to his role of "lover of all ladies". He added the "e" to his surname in an effort to distance himself from his father, a sexually ambiguous cross-dressing preacher.

Marvin Gaye - Everybody Needs Love

The complex nature of his relationship with his father makes for one of the most beautiful and revealing musical moments on the whole album, during 'Everybody Needs Love'. At 40 seconds, he sings the line "And my Father, he needs love" - all the lines before this (flowers, bluebirds, babies, all god's children need love) are sung straight, almost whispered. But when he gets to his father, the harmony takes a brief detour and he hits one of his beautiful high notes - it's like he can't sing it straight because their relationship was so complicated. I don't know - maybe just a coincidence, but then there are no coincidences, right? This track also features the only example I know of an "aural wink-to-camera" at 1.40 ("... even a superstar *cymbal crash*"). Cocky bastard!

Marvin Gaye - A Funky Space Reincarnation

It's not all bitter recriminations and one-upmanship - there's even this bizarre bit of psychodrama. Here, Marvin imagines sometime in the future, getting stoned on Venus-ian drugs at a party and getting it on with someone he feels like he's met before. But it's not Janis, it's Anna. The subtext seems to be that, despite their divorce, they're destined to always be together in some way. And also (perhaps more sinisterly) Anna will always be his and that that he can have her any time that he wants her. Creepy.

This album is very strange and incredibly one-sided but in a sense it's his most honest - "Here, My Dear" is all Marvin, all his arrogance, all his pettiness and all his insecurities. And it would be nothing if it wasn't as funky as anything and a showcase for Marvin's beautiful mutli-layered vocals. Weird and utterly essential.

Buy - Here, My Dear (expanded edition)
Visit - Marvin on Wikipedia