A birthday month tribute
to the late Marvin Gaye
By ANDY MURCIA
Marvin Gaye would have turned 69 this month. He was the singer-composer who gave us perhaps the most definitive musical-lyrical depiction of the 60s and 70s of any performing artist.
What I find profound is that 99 percent of what he was singing about back then is still relevant today in 2008.
Had Marvin still been still with us, perhaps he would have re-released some of his songs that I think for sure would have related to our lives today. Let me quote some of the subjects Marvin was singing about and tell me if I'm not right:
He sang, "War is not the answer. Only love can conquer hate." He also addressed race relations, police brutality, and even the length you wear your hair. He dealt with our planet's ecology, singing about blue skies and radiation under ground, even about mercury in our fish. But he sang mostly about love, personal relationships and sex. No matter what you may think about the man, his lyrics apply to all
of us at some point in our lives.
I called this column "Troubled Man" not only because "Trouble Man" was the title of one of his many hits, but because in many ways it describes Marvin Gaye himself. The song that became the sound track of the black exploitation film of the same name tipped us off about Marvin Gayes personal life.
Marvin had a mixed-up love-hate relationship with his father, Rev. Marvin Pentz Gay, Sr., who was a storefront preacher. In 1984, the preacher shot and killed his son, Marvin Gaye, the popular singer. (Marvin added the e to his family name.) This tragic event would take volumes to detail, so suffice it to say that Marvin died at the hands of his father.
Marvin Gaye left behind a musical history that for me would act practically as a sound track for my adult life. I remember as a young man of 21 in the 1960s when I followed a sweetheart back to her hometown of Chicago. I remember working as a shipping clerk at Carrs Dept. Store located on 63rd Street near Halsted. Carrs was smack dab in the middle of the south side black ghetto. As I walked on 63rd, (at times the only white face there) to catch my train home, the music pouring out onto 63rd street was that of Marvin Gaye singing big hits like Hitch Hike, a song about a guy who goes to Chicago seeking his lifeand winds up in Los Angeles.
I stopped into a tavern to buy a soda one night after work and the jukebox was loudly playing songs like Stubborn Kind of Fellow and I Heard It Through
the Grapevine." My parents advised me not to go to Chicago alonethat it was a dangerous city. But, being a stubborn kind of fellow, I didnt listen to my folks. You see, I had heard it through the grapevine that Chicago was a great city that could offer a decent future to a young man willing to work hard.
And it sure did. Chicago was very good to me. I married that sweetheart Elaine, (all too soon deceased) and I was gifted by God with a daughter, Denise Louise, who stole my heart. I know it Takes Two plus God to make a baby girl who became our Pride and Joy.
In Chicago I fulfilled a boyhood dream to be a cop just like my father was. I went through the Chicago Police Academy and hit the street, and I can tell you, Aint Nothing Like the Real Thing. I enjoyed a good career there as a detective, and later, as a sergeant. It was over all too soon when those Inner City Blues hit me right between the eyes. I just about lost everything that was good in my life and felt so low as if I had to reach up just to touch bottom.
Then like waking up from a bad dream I realized that there Aint No Mountain High Enough to keep me down as long as I didnt give up. I had to learn Thats the Way Love Is. I soon met my second wife, Ann Jillian, who gave me a brand new start--and more. She saw something in me that was good and worthy. She had faith, and hers awakened my own, in time to hear Marvin Gaye sing His Eye Is On The Sparrow.
We soon married and once again God blessed me with a child a son, Andrew Joseph. This was so exciting I had to pinch myself or say, Can I Get a Witness as Im a father twice! Each day I look at Andrew I think, Youre A Wonderful One and Ann and I just watch in awe as he grows!
I did get to meet Marvin Gaye once at the old Regal Theatre. I was a cop on duty backstage talking to Tammi Terrell and she introduced me to Marvin. We shook hands. I recall his hand was almost clammy but then again he and Tammi were about to go on stage to perform.
Marvin had no idea, nor did I at that time, how his songs underscored my life. This is something that dawned on me today as I thought about how awful it was that Marvin Gaye was no longer with us. I got out my old Marvin Gaye albums and closed my eyes and like so many of you, I started to miss the guy all over again and wish he were still with us.
Who will underscore the rest of my life? Or maybe Marvin already did that, too, before he left. You see, when I listen to him sing songs like How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You this song reminds me of how my God loves all of usand when Marvin sings His Eye Is On The Sparrow you can just imagine him as a young boy singing and playing his drums in his fathers store-front Church long before he gave the world his magic that Im feeling today as I write this.
Hes not troubled anymore. Sing it Marvin, sing it man! Sing it for all of us as we sing Happy Birthday this month to this talented man!
©2008 by Andy Murcia. The Murcia caricature is ©2003 by Jim Hummel. The Marvin Gaye album cover is courtesy of Motown Records. This column first posted April 7, 2008..
You can comment on this column online. Please address your message to either "The Editors" or Andy Murcia. To send an email, click here and don't forget to mention Andy's name: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOME About Us Index To
Talkback Contact Us