Tag Archives: David Ritz

‘Here, My Dear’ At 40-Marvin Gaye’s Funky Space Reincarnation Of Romantic Endings & Beginnings

Marvin Gaye’s back story for his fifteenth studio album is well known by this point. Gaye’s wife Anna Gordy sued him for divorce following as he was pursuing a relationship with teenage Janice Hunter. And it was agreed that half the proceeds from his next album to go to Gordy as part of the divorce settlement. At first considering making a lukewarm album out of spite, Marvin decided to weave the reality about the end of  his marriage into one of his musically cinematic narratives- with a conceptually abstract twist. That was the nucleus of the album that became Here, My Dear.

The wah wah heavy title track starts out the album. As writer David Ritz pointed out, Marvin’s vocal harmony based style is rooted in doo wop. And the 70’s funky soft soul of this number, in the 6/8th country/soul shuffle tempo. “I Met A Little Girl” has a similar style- only a bit gentler reflecting both early 60’s Motown balladry and its narrative about the 12 years of his marriage to Anna. “Everybody Needs Love” is a moment where the basic groove of the opening title song extends into a full blown self examination of Gaye’s view on love in general.

“When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You” is also reprised as an instrumental. But its a whole other beast musically- a powerful, percussion laced groove filled with the kind of jazzy chords and melodic exchanges this album celebrates. Now for songs that get heavily into the jazz styled vibe? “Sparrow” alternates from blues to Afro Latin percussion-including a bop styled sax solo from Ernie Fields. “Is That Enough” goes for a cinematic approach that showcases not only heavily arranged orchestration, but a section of the song where the musicians jam away without lead vocals from Gaye.

“Anna’s Song” returns to the medium tempo R&B shuffling of “Trouble Man” from seven years earlier. “Time To Get It Together” gets deep into the thumping,percussion laced funk groove-filled with Marvin’s melodically soulful yet futuristic synthesizer playing. “Anger” and “A Funky Space Reincarnation” are both musically based on the same type of sophistifunk Rhodes/wah wah/percussion based funk crawl. Each conceptually contrasts the other. On the former, Gaye is reconciling his scattered emotions. On the latter, he in on a sci fi odyssey with Anna-attempt to seduce her in with “Venusian smoke”.

“You Can Leave, But It’s Going To Cost You”  is another funk number-this time with a more bluesy style of bass/guitar interaction as Gaye illustrates with journalistic clarity his final attempt to reconcile with his estranged wife. The almost Barry White like cinematic funky soul of “Falling In Love Again” goes into his assumed future with Janice. Over the years, my friend Henrique and I have discussed this perhaps more than any other Marvin Gaye album. It was actually first brought to my knowledge through my father purchasing the 8 Track during the 1990’s.

Having heard it with this depth of musical knowledge today? Here, My Dear emerges as probably the most funky breakup album to have been released. While it plays out like the kinds of cinematic soul album opera’s that Gaye had been doing with Leon Ware? A good cross section of the music gets as deep into a contemporary late 70’s sophisticated funk groove with a number of variations in flow and style. From deep in the pocket to jazzier and free flowing. And that goes directly with the “moods of Marvin Gaye” during the time this was recorded too.

With musicians such as guitarists Gordon Banks and Wali Ali interacting with  bassist Frank Blair? Not to mention the drum/percussion flow of drummer Bunny Wilcox with percussionists  Gary Jones and Elmira Collins? The added sweeteners of horn players Nolan Smith’s trump and tenor sax players Charlie Owens and Fernando Hawkins all play their roles in providing what amounts to the soundtrack for the divorce of Marvin Gaye. This is even played out in the Monopoly game of “judgement” on the albums back cover.

Here, My Dear didn’t endear itself to Anna Gordy at first. As David Ritz explained in his Gaye biography Divided Soul, Marvin invited Anna to a private listening of the album. Its conceptual voyeurism had her contemplating a suit for invasion of privacy.  That didn’t seem to have occurred. As my friend Henrique also pointed out, the modern cinematic video approach of a Kanye West might’ve helped visualize Marvin Gaye’s narrative on this album. Gaye did however help innovate the confessional funk approach with soul, class and imagination. Resulting in another album that continues to age like fine wine.

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Andre’s Amazon Archive Special Presentation: Marvin Gaye-30 Years Since He Was Last With Us

                             In the decade and a half since I first read the David Ritz-penned memoir ‘Divided Soul’, my thoughts about Marvin Gaye’s music became very much wrapped up in the occasionally magisterial manner in which Ritz characterized the complex and sometimes melodramatic life of his creative partner and close friend-Marvin Gaye. Now I realize that it has officially been 30 years since Mister Gaye was taken from this Earth by the gun of his own father,which he had actually given to him as it turned out.  While Marvin’s music,especially from the 1970’s onward is some of the most captivating and eloquent of its era? Today its somewhat difficult for me to listen to it. The man simply had too much back story. Its not easy to listen to a song such as “Let’s Get It On” and realize it refers to a very severe May/December romance. Or the voyeuristic peak into his painful divorce on his ‘Hear,My Dear’ album from 1977.

Marvin Gaye should be an example of someone of whom one shouldn’t get the singer confused with their songs. However in this case? One would be missing the entire point of Marvin’s musical aura if they were to approach him that way. He was a master of being both lyrically confessional and generalized. His music provided a window into his soul, yet was flexible enough to represent whatever the listen was receiving from it. He understood the art of his music superbly in that respect.  One of my very favorite Marvin Gaye albums was the last one he ever completed while he was alive. And it contained the very first Marvin Gaye song I can recall hearing-before I had the slightest idea what it’s title even meant. It was called “Sexual Healing”. And it was from his 1982 finale ‘Midnight Love’. And here now I present to you my very special review of this coda to an astounding and complex musical career.

Midnight Love

 

Between 1979 and 1980,Marvin Gaye left the Motown label who had help establish his iconic career over (among other things) a dispute over what would end up as his final album for the label with In Our Lifetime,a record that returned him to the more sociopolitical concerns of his triumph with What’s Going On a decade earlier. During this time Marvin himself traveled between Hawaii (where he claimed he attempted suicide) to Ostend,Belgian. It was there that,having freshly severed his relationship with Motown managed to sign to the local imprint of Columbia records and begin plans to renew his musical career. Marvin was 43 years old,divorced and having drifted out of a difficult relationship with the rather young Janis Hunter. He hadn’t had a huge pop chart hit in almost six years. With the advent of Prince and fellow former Motowner Michael Jackson strongly on the horizon,the always highly self competitive Marvin was able to muster enough inner strength,passed his overarching personal demons,to record this album in 1982.

Over a mix ferocious drumming and conga based percussion “Midnight Lady” opens the album with a full on orchestra of bass synthesizer and melodic keyboard parts over the vocal symphony of himself Marvin was so willing to provide. “Sexual Healing”,the song that bought him back to the charts is build around a drum machine,Marvin’s voice and a tight rhythm guitar but surely makes its point well. “Rockin’ After Midnight” takes a cue from the funk found on the opener for a bass synth/rhythm guitar based jam grooving along for 6+ minutes. “Til Tomorrow” is a slow seduction ballad blending Marvin’s classic style of this with the more modern instrumental setting. “Turn On Some Music” is a slinky and harmonically vivid boogie funk type number finding Marvin using the metaphor of sexual foreplay with playing a vinyl album-perhaps this one. “Third World Girl” has a rather electronic take on a funk/reggae sound. “Joy” of course-with its potent brew of guitar,sax,Sly & The Family Stone like horn voicings,keyboard and vocal lines is indeed the most joyous groove this album has to offer. The album ends with a more full band revisit of the “Sexual Healing” melody on “My Love Is Waiting”.

Of course this would indeed be the final album of Marvin Gaye’s lifetime. Others would be released posthumously over the years. And while the accompanying Sexual Healing tour for this album wound up representing all the factors that led to Marvin’s all too early demise,this album showcases a very plausible and secure musical future for him. While always frustrated between his need to have commercial success and his desires to be a swinging jazz crooner,few albums balance these two desires in the same way as this. The music on this album is an interesting variation on the post disco/pre boogie funk sound of a type I never heard elsewhere. The bass synthesizer defines most of this album,the drum/percussion parts are both flamboyant and fluid and the use of the echoed clavinet hear is used almost in the manner of bluesy jazz harpsichord/organ than anything else. With its mixture of contemporary instrumentation and even than quite retro soloing effects combined with Marvin’s spacious vocal arrangements for an album that musically bares a stamp rather unique to it-all the while sounding very familiar. Even if it foreshadowed his end,the possibilities were boundless for a totally reinvented Marvin Gaye musical sound. And that is why I feel this is one of his finest and most thoroughly funk oriented albums.

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