May Artist – Marvin Gaye (Part 2)
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. Click on the link below if you’d like to read the other section(s).
These are just a few thought on three of the Marvin Gaye albums I’ve listened to so far. In the next post I’ll talk about the other Marvin Gaye albums I chose this month.
Moods of Marvin Gaye
This is the first album Marvin Gaye album I listened to, but it was actually his 7th studio album. The album had been released in 1966, but Gaye had been signed to Tamla records since 1961. My understanding is that Berry Gordy founded Tamla records in 1959 and then Motown in 1960. Tamla was one of the many subsidiaries of Motown Records, which was eventually incorporated into Motown Records. A few groups signed to Tamla Records aside from Marvin Gaye include, The Miracles (a.k.a. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles), Stevie Wonder, and The Marvelettes. Other subsidiaries of Motown include Soul Records, V.I.P Records, and Gordy Records. I think now it’s just more common to refer to artists who’d been signed to these subsidiaries like Marvin Gaye as being part of Motown even if they’d been signed a subsidiary. So in these posts I’ll just writing Motown instead of all the subsidiaries.
One of the things I find really interesting is when there is a music style associated with a city or area that was not necessarily on the music and pop culture radar before that (least not for the general public). Think the Grunge music in the Pacific northwest in the 90s, Minneapolis Sound in Minneapolis (pioneered by Prince) in the 80s, and for Detroit Motown in the 60s. I’d like to read up more on the history of Motown, and the impact it had on Detroit.
Favourite weird lyric so far, “Like jello on a plate I shiver and I shake every time you come near.”
Motown songs are generally upbeat songs in major keys, often about love or being in love. There are a few more slower song, little more bittersweet/sad in minor keys (usually along the lines of “I miss you” “I wish you loved me” etc). There’s definitely a sound that Motown songs kind of have, but that’s not a bad thing. Those happy Motown songs are warm and sweet and a lot of fun to listen to. That said there were a couple of more jazz and blues focused songs on here rather than just classic soul.
In the Groove
“You” came on and I was like “oh minor chords this is interesting” and I quite enjoyed the song, but that fadeout was kind of abrupt. And this was in the era of fadeouts. Also this song has backing vocals by Gladys Knight and the Pips.
Sometimes songs remind me of a movie they’re not in, or they more so remind me of a movie trope or a type a scene you might see in a movie. “You” is the song that comes on in the hero’s journey where they’ve lost everything but they’re working (training, fighting, researching how to kill the bad guy/get the mcguffin) and they’re also doing the actions to win over/save the love interest. You get it right. It’s like a training montage sad, but in a minor key with a love focus. Now if you listen to the lyrics you’re gonna go, that’s not what the song is about. And I get that, but the tone reminds me of that song type in a movie. Like I had to google to make sure the song wasn’t in a movie, but I didn’t find anything.
“Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” is the song that plays at the ending and through part of the credits of a romantic comedy. Like can’t you just picture the two romantic leads together, holding hands and walking as the sun sets and this song is playing while the credits role. Yeah, that’s the vibe.
This album has the “Heard It Through The Grapevine” which became a pretty big hit (from my understanding). Apparently on subsequent releases this album was reprinted with the title Heard It Through The Grapevine/In The Groove I guess to appeal to people who’d heard the song and to try to get them to buy the album.
That’s The Way Love Is
When it came to the albums I’d be listening to this month I knew there would be sort of two halves to Marvin Gaye’s music. The first being the classic Motown songs Gaye sang in the 1960s like “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Take This Heart of Mine” (songs from the previous two albums I listened to). The second halve being his albums he released in the 70s and 80s where the albums would sound much different from his earlier work. His 1971 album What’s Going On is considered a seminal work of Gaye, and I know (even without having listened to the album yet) was much more socially conscious/political than those super upbeat songs. What I didn’t expect would that this album That’s The Way Love Is would be a little more politically focused than the previous albums. Not in some huge way, but songs like “Abraham, Martin & John” (a cover song originally sang by Dion) kind of showcase more of a political focus. This was well before my time, so I can’t say for sure but this might have been a bit of testing the waters to see if the general public would be interested in a more socially conscious album, rather than the classic upbeat Motown love songs Gaye was known for singing up to that point.
This album is I believe a cover album, but that’s not saying much. With Motown a lot of artists wrote songs for each other, sang each other’s songs, provide backing vocals. Often I’d look up song info and it would “oh this song was written by Smokey Robinson” or “that song was originally sung by Stevie Wonder” etc. I point this out not as a fault, because that was just something done quite a bit back in the day (and even in modern pop music one artist might write a song that’s recorded by another). And this isn’t something necessarily specific to Motown as a record label or soul music. I’m sure country artists like Johnny Cash probably covered songs from other country artists. Gaye had recorded covers other songs aside from Soul music popularized by Motown. His first album was a cover album mostly of jazz standards and songs from the American songbook. His fourth album was a cover of Broadway songs. Point being I didn’t want to just listen I didn’t listen to those two cover albums, but I knew that I’d be hearing Marvin Gaye cover songs originally sung or written by other artists. What’s interesting with this album is there’s a cover of the song “Yesterday” by The Beatles, which threw me off for a second. It’s actually a really well done cover, different than the original but not so much so that you can’t place the song.
Somewhat Conclusion for These Albums
I’m really enjoying these albums so far. Yes, most of the songs are the kind of Motown songs I expected to hear, but even those upbeat love songs are just so nice to listen to. Like I don’t think you can be sad listening to a happy upbeat Motown song (those sad ones are a different story). And while I haven’t touched on it as a singer Marvin Gaye had a very rich and full singing voice. There’s a warmth in his tone that I really enjoy. While these albums were indicative of his career with Motown in the 1960s (and I guess up to 1970 That’s The Way Love Is was released January of that year) I know his next albums will be quite different, and I can’t wait to dive into those.