Last week, while randomly channel surfing, I stumbled across a fantastic PBS documentary in the American Masters series, titled Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On.
It was a terrific review of the wonderful music and troubled life of Marvin Gaye.
Those of you who are less familiar with early Soul and R&B owe it to yourself to learn a bit about Gaye, best known as an artist on the Motown record label in the 1960s and 1970s.
Gaye had a classic R&B voice — described as "edged with grit yet tempered with sweetness." But he was much more than that: He was Motown’s renaissance man: A songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer as well.
AllMusic: "Moving from lean,
powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an
intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his
work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also
expanded its impact as an agent for social change."
You can explore Gaye’s work a couple of ways: The one click method is
either a box set or a Best Of. For the big 4 CD box, go with The Master 1961-1984. A less exhaustive approach is Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye.
I much prefer the albums over the greatest hits, The self-produced What’s Going On was a landmark effort, described as "a dramatic shift in both content and style that forever altered the face of black music." A mix of percussion, soul and jazz, it has a remarkably sophisticated and fluid sound. Reviewers have called What’s Going On a conceptual masterpiece.
The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye’s work reached its boiling point with 1973’s Let’s Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded; a work of intense lust and longing, it became the most commercially successful effort of his career
Top Ten Albums
1971: What’s Going On (#6 U.S.)
1973: Let’s Get It On (#2 U.S.)
1973: Diana & Marvin (#5 UK)
1974: Marvin Gaye Live! (#8 U.S.)
1976: I Want You (#4 U.S.)
1977: Live at the London Palladium (#3 U.S.)
1982: Midnight Love (#7 U.S.; #10 UK)
1994: The Very Best of Marvin Gaye (#3 UK)
2000: Marvin Gaye Love Songs (#8 UK)
• NPR: A Tribute to Marvin Gaye
videos after the jump
Let’s Get It On
Marvin Gaye "What’s Going On / What’s Happening Brother
Marvin Gaye Home Page
Marvin Gaye Wiki entry
All Music Guide page
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
History of Rock page
Rolling Stone page