May Artist – Marvin Gaye (Part 1)

This post is part of my Deep Dive Music Project. This month I’m listening to some music by Marvin Gaye. Be sure to check out the Marvin Gaye playlist I have on Spotify. This post will have all my thoughts about the music I’ve listened to this month. When I’ve written more about the music of Marvin Gaye that I’ve listened to I’ll have links to that part of the post here.

After a month hiatus the Deep Dive Music Project is back, and for May I’ll be listening to some of the music of Marvin Gaye.

There are a few artists I’ve featured for this project who have passed away; Johnny Cash, Prince, David Bowie, and now this month’s artist Marvin Gaye. The big difference is that the other three artists I just mentioned were all alive during part of my life, but Marvin Gaye died several months before I was born. For me Marvin Gaye and his music has always been in this legacy of music artists who are no longer with us, but they made such great contributions to the modern music landscape. I’d imagine many people might be more familiar with the tragic death of Gaye, who was shot to death by his father only a day before his 45th birthday, than they would know the entire scope of his discography and career.

The purpose of this project though is to focus on the music, and Gaye released quite a bit during his 20-some year career. I know he started as a Motown singer in the 1960s. And there are Motown songs he’s sang that I know, but Motown songs tended to be covered by lots of their artists. I wouldn’t be surprised if when I feature Stevie Wonder I learn that he’s covered songs Marvin Gaye had also sang. My understanding is that this is just how it worked back in the day. I’m not sure if this is more or less specific for Motown. And I also know that Gaye did more politically focused music after Motown, although I think he was still with Motown when he made What’s Going On. I’m familiar with a few of what I called the sexy time love jams like “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On.” I believe his music will be a bit more soul leaning rather than funk (like Prince or Stevie Wonder, who I’ll be featuring in another month).

The Marvin Gaye Songs I Kind Of Know

These are the Marvin Gaye songs I’ve heard before, but I may come across other songs of his during this project that are somewhat familiar to me.

  • What’s Going On?
  • Sexual Healing
  • Let’s Get It On
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  • I Heard It Through The Grapevine
  • It Takes Two
  • How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)
  • Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing

Impressions

Before I start diving into the discography for the artists I’ve chosen I want to give a rundown of the impression I get of their music and their work. This may or may not be accurate. The point of this isn’t for me to tell you, “this is definitely what this artist’s music is/will be like” but for me to see if these impressions are correct as I go along. They may or may not be.

When it comes to music I expect that there’ll be a few albums (the first three in the list below) with that fun upbeat Motown sound. Motown is a genre of music associated with the Motown record label in Detroit that was a huge music influence in the 1960s. Watching film or television shows set in the 1960s, and having listened to a lot of American produced music so far in my life I am somewhat familiar with the sounds of Motown. However it’s not a genre of music I can claim to be an expert in or know everything about. I’m interested to see if I’ll be surprised by any of the classic Motown albums Marvin Gaye has, or if it’ll be a case of “yeah that’s what I expected.”

Of course What’s Going On is an album I’m somewhat familiar with in terms of its legacy, because I know it was a very political album for the time. I believe Gaye was still signed with Motown and an album like that wasn’t what Motown was known for. What’s Going On is considered a magnum opus of sort in Gaye’s career, so I’m curious to listen to the full album. I’m sure it is on several Greatest Albums Of All Time and Most Important Albums Of All Time lists. My understanding, without having listened to the album in full (just knowing the title track), was that it was a groundbreaking work.

Let’s Get It On and Midnight Love I believe are going to fall under the, “sexy time love jams” category, although I could be very wrong about that assumption. By that I mean I’m sure there will be other types of songs on there than just well “Let’s Get It On” kind of songs. I know the album Here, My Dear was written after (or perhaps) during Gaye’s divorce from his wife. I have heard that it’s a very emotionally raw album, but it’s also one I felt compelled to listen to.

I’m expecting to hear a good amount of Motown, soul, and maybe even some funk and disco (since several of these albums are from the 1970s). These are just my preliminary impressions of Marvin Gaye’s music from the limited amount of songs of his I’ve heard. We’ll see if any of these are accurate.

The Marvin Gaye Albums I’m Listening To This Month

Marvin Gaye’s career spanned from the early 1960s up to the early 1980s. During that time he released 25 studio albums, four live albums, one soundtrack album, 24 compilation albums, and 83 singles. There are a lot of Marvin Gaye albums so I did a bit of research and narrowed it down to the following seven albums.

Moods of Marvin Gaye (1966)
In The Groove (1968)
That’s The Way Love Is (1970)
What’s Going On (1971)
Let’s Get It On (1973)
Here, My Dear (1978)
Midnight Love (1982)

If I have time I may try to listen to How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You (1965) and You’re All I Need (1968). I wanted to include a few classic Motown records of Gaye’s, but not make those the only type of albums I’d be listening to. In either case I’m looking forward to listening to some of the music of Marvin Gaye.

What’s your favourite album or song by Marvin Gaye?

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