We all live our lives in stages. Although we often don’t realize we are going through these different seasons of life until they end. It’s beautiful to live an act of life and it’s even a greater blessing to be given another.
That is how I think of Marvin Gaye. He has musical stages that directly coincide with what he was going through with his life. His musical success starts with songs such as “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” and “Pride and Joy,” but before these there was “”Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide.”
Never heard of it? Most people haven’t.
Gaye’s early career did not yield success. At this time he had moved out of an abusive home, dropped out of school and had served a stint in the army. A lackluster life at best. Then came the hits. Then came the duet albums with the likes of Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston. Now life was good.
Next, came What’s Goin On and Let’s Get it On after the death of Terrell. This took a huge toll on Gaye emotionally, but it didn’t stop success from becoming Gaye’s middle name. Listen closely though, the mourning and emotion is all in the lyrics and vocals.
By the time 1977 rolled around Gaye had become a household name. He released the live album Live at The London Palladium adding his name to endless superstars who had and would perform there. I feel it perfectly sums up his musical career and life perfectly at this stage.
This album finds a confident Gaye that wasn’t typical of his character. One can read countless accounts of how he was really a shy individual, but it is hardly an argument with this album. He talked very humbly, but he wasn’t overly confident. He didn’t act shy what so ever.
The pre-“Sexual Healing” Marvin is in full force on this album. He jokingly sings “Let’s Get it On” with a rather bashful lady in the audience. He covers all his old 1960’s hits from “You’re a Wonderful One” to “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved By You).”
Live is basically built upon three song melodies. The highlights of this album come in Melody Two and Melody Three. In Melody Two he mixes his hits with songs that mirror a “We Are the World” sentiment. He sings his beliefs in songs like “God is Love” and “Save the Children” while offering his hit “What’s Going On.”
Melody Three is my favorite. This is where Marvin really starts to have fun. He performs many of his duet hits with Florence Lyle. Although these were not the originals you can tell that Marvin is living in yesterday with every note. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is always a favorite, but to be honest, the complete melody is sensational.
In the end, I can’t say enough about Gaye. I have listened to his music for a few years now, yet I still can’t get my mind completely wrapped around his music. Reading articles about him show me the stages that he lived in. He is a completely different man from “Stubborin’ Kind of Fellow” to “Let’s Get it On” to “Sexual Healing.” He’s barely even recognizable from cover to cover!
Marvin had just begun act 4 when he was shot by his father in 1984. What would act 5 and 6 looked like? Think about how stupefying he would be today! One can only imagine the genius he would have produced. His death is one of the biggest tragedies to soul music and music as a whole.
It seems the curtain closed on Marvin before he was even close to his encore.