It can be hard to grasp the depth and breadth of Marvin Gaye’s career. He seems to have lived one of those kaleidoscopic lives that could only have occurred at the birth of modern pop and celebrity culture: starting as a session singer for Chuck Berry before songwriting and drumming for Motown groups such as the Marvelettes and the Miracles; earning his stripes as a duettist with Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell and then breaking out on his own, first as a tentative R&B man and then as a socially conscious soul auteur and hedonistic sex symbol. And then, at the age of 44, he was shot dead by his father.
His expansive life is much like his voice: all four octaves of range from honeyed baritone to raspy, yearning tenor (his “tough man voice”) and then the heart-rending, vulnerable falsetto, differing musical personalities contained within the singular liquid runs he would make in his songs. Reconciling these competing expressions would prove to be a lifelong evolution, one that can be traced back to Gaye’s first solo commercial success, 1968’s I Heard It Through the Grapevine.
Read the feature in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 25/05/20]