Last week was simultaneously 30 years since Marvin Gaye was shot dead as well as being what should’ve been his 75th birthday. For me, Marvin epitomizes much of the human condition as well as being one of the giants of popular music history.
Marvin Gaye was an artist torn so desperately in so many different directions. This was a man capable of the most spiritual as well as the most carnal of songs with music that moved well beyond the innocence of pure 1960s pop. But apart from the religious / sexual dichotomy that has always existed in so much of black American music, Marvin Gaye was also an enormously popular artist who for whatever reason never made an enormous amount of money. He was said to be frustrated at the comparative album sales of peers like Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie and was in later years dogged by major tax issues as well as a crippling drug addiction.
Ultimately though, time has stood him in good stead and his approximate 20 year run of hits is long and acclaimed by any measure. Carrying on the mantle of true soul music first established by Sam Cooke, the catalogue of Marvin Gaye encapsulates all of what soul can be: romantic, political, sensual, angry, hopeful, spiritual, joyous, melodic and at times, purely funky. To mark his giant imprint on this genre I love, here are my top five* Marvin Gaye songs:
*Of course you can’t really have a best of list for Marvin Gaye without What’s Going On, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Sexual Healing, but for the purposes of this blog I wanted to go a little beyond his three most famous songs. If you click here you can link to British newspaper The Telegraph’s hard to argue with Marvin Gaye top 20 which includes those tracks.