Marvin Gay was born Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. in 1939 and added an "e" to the end of his last name (to imitate Sam Cooke
who did the same). Gaye got his start singing in the church choir, later learning to play the piano and drums to escape from his physically abusive father. After high school, Gaye joined the United States Air Force and afterwards joined several doo wop
groups, settling on The Rainbows
, who latter became known as the Moonglows
. After the Moonglows first single Gaye was recruited for a solo career by Berry Gordy Jr. of Motown Records.
In 1961 he married Anna Gordy
, Berry Gordy's sister.
By 1965, he had released 39 Top 40 songs for Motown, many of them duets with Mary Wells
, Kim Weston
and Tammi Terrell
His crumbling marriage finally ended in 1975. As part of the divorce settlement, Gaye agreed to record a new album and remit a portion of the royalties to Anna as alimony; the result was 1978's Here, My Dear
, a deeply personal album that was so detailed that Anna Gordy considered suing him for invading her privacy.
In the 1st of April of 1984, the day before his 45th birthday, his father shot him to death when a conflict between them turned violent. He was struggling with cocaine addiction by that time.
THE SOLO SONGS
NOTE: The songs reviewed below are not in exact chronological order
Stubborn Kind Of Fellow
(2:46) - On this and the next two songs, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas sang behind Marvin shortly before gaining stardom on their own. In this and the next song, listen only to the right speaker and you can barely hear the Vandellas. The girl resists the narrator's attempts to hold and kiss her, but he claims that he was born to embrace her, so he's "gonna love her in every way."
(2:27) - The tempo is moderate, with a tick-tock drum playing on all quarter beats. The narrator's girlfriend has bolted, and he vows to reclaim her even if it means hitching rides all over the world.
Pride And Joy
(2:05) - This moderate, swing-tempoed song features a piano and, in the beginning, hand-clapping. The Vandellas' voices drown out Marvin's, but if you listen closely, you will find that his character loves the girl "like a baby boy loves his toy." That's why the Vandellas sing the title and "baby boy" most of the time.
Can I Get A Witness
(2:47) - A piano solo fills the first 5 seconds of this fast song. The horns overpower Marvin's voice, so you'd have to listen closely to find out why the narrator wants a witness. As far as I can tell, he's telling the people that his girlfriend is treating him unfairly, so he wants one of the people to act as a witness for him, to tell her how badly she is treating him.
You're A Wonderful One
(2:43) - The tempo is the same as it was two songs ago. The drums and the tambourine accent the even-numbered beats. The narrator's girlfriend gives him the best loving he could ever receive, and asks only the same in return. Diana and the Supremes sang behind Marvin on this song.
Try It Baby
(2:46) - This song is slow, with soft drum-playing, a piano, a trumpet, and backup vocals by the Temptations. The narrator finds that his girlfriend has strayed from him, having good looks, wearing fancy clothes, attracting all the other men in the world. The narrator tells her to try taking away her beauty and fashion; that way no one will love her except him.
Baby Don't You Do It
(2:37) - Hands clap on every second and fourth beat. The narrator begs his girlfriend not to leave him because he has always sacrificed for her happiness.
(2:19) - This song has a slow, 12/8 tempo, with drums playing on every second and fourth quarter beat, and a piano on all eighth beats. The narrator will let the girl break his heart, take his love for granted, do anything to him, just so he can be with her forever.
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
(2:54) - This moderate, swing-tempoed song features a tambourine and, on every second and fourth beat, regular drums and hand-clapping. The narrator wants to "stop and thank" his girlfriend for the true love she has given him. This song was subsequently covered by James Taylor.
I'll Be Doggone
(2:44) - Of Marvin's solo songs, this is the one I like best. A tambourine plays on every second and fourth beat. The narrator would be "doggone" if his girlfriend weren't beautiful or "warm as a breath of spring," but if he were to catch her cheating on him, "I wouldn't be doggone, I'd be long gone."
Pretty Little Baby
(2:35) - A drum plays every fourth beat. The other instruments are jingle bells and a piano. Here's another song in which the narrator begs his girlfriend not to leave him; if she does she will take his whole world with her.
Ain't That Peculiar
(2:57) - During the first 7 seconds, soft drums and hand-clapping sound the second and fourth beats; then the louder drums and tambourine enter. What the narrator finds peculiar is his girlfriend's treatment of him; at every opportunity she gets, walks out and hurts him.
Sweeter As The Days Go By
(2:47) - This moderately slow song features a piano and a tambourine; a sax plays during the middle instrumental. The narrator's girlfriend has a smile like an angel, a golden heart, and kisses of sunshine. Her love for him gets sweeter as each day passes.
(3:06) - Instruments in this moderately fast song include horns, a tambourine, chimes, and a flute. The narrator's girlfriend doesn't always do everything he tells her to, and she is no beauty queen. But she is faithful and sincere; that's why he thinks she's sweet.
One More Heartache
(2:39) - Regular drums play the even-numbered beats; after the first 7 seconds, shaking drums play on all eighth beats. During the middle instrumental a saxophone plays. The narrator has suffered so many heartaches that he cannot take one more. He compares that to the last straw that broke the camel's back and to the last blow of air that bursts the balloon.
Take This Heart Of Mine
(2:45) - This fast song features a chime-like instrument. The narrator finds that the girl has been hurt; he tells her to take his heart if she wants true love.
Little Darling I Need You
(2:31) - This moderately fast song features a tambourine. The theme here is the same as in "Forever": the narrator is willing to pay any price, such as being the girl's "#1 fool," just to be with her.
Your Unchanging Love
(3:09) - This song has a moderate, swing tempo. On the first and third beats, a tambourine shakes; on the other beats, regular drums play and hands clap. The narrator wants the whole world to know about his girlfriend's love for him. He has learned that true love like hers is more important than having a lot of money; he says, "if I don't have a dime, I'll know your love is mine."
(2:24) - Instruments in this song include a tambourine and a harpsichord. When the narrator looks in his mirror each morning, he sees the girl's face instead of his own; he feels a strong need for her to hold him.
(2:37) - After the first 5 seconds, a tambourine sounds every even-numbered beat. Other instruments include a saxophone and horns. Not long ago the narrator's girlfriend held him in her arms, but now she's gone. He resolves to find a way to win her back because he's "chained to her
How Can I Forget
(1:55) - Only the organ and the tambourine play for the first 7 seconds. Then the drums and horns enter. The narrator's friends tell him to forget the girlfriend who just left him and find a new one. However, he finds it impossible to wipe her out of his memory.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
(3:14) - Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded the version this song that was released first, in 1967; in 1968 Marvin released his version; and Creedence Clearwater Revival released theirs in 1970. I like Marvin's version the best of the three. A tambourine sounds the first beat of the song; a clarinet solo fills the next several seconds. Finally, the other instruments enter. The narrator has heard that his girlfriend plans to leave him for a man she had loved before; he wonders why she didn't tell him herself.
Too Busy Thinking About My Baby
(2:55) - The narrator claims he has no time to discuss money, the weather, etc., because all he ever wants to think about is his girlfriend.
That's The Way Love Is
(3:41) - Cymbal drums beat on the second and fourth beats most of the time; occasionally we hear a tambourine or regular drums. The narrator can see how love has hurt the girl: other men have loved her, then left her; her heart has sometimes been so heavy as to leave her feeling that she has no friends. But, as the title says, "that's the way love is." Very true.
The End Of Our Road
(2:48) - A guitar lick starts the song off. The narrator has had enough of the girl's cheating on him, breaking promises, etc., so he's declaring their relationship over. "Every road's got to end somewhere," and they've reached the end of theirs.
What's Going On
(3:48) - This song starts with voices saying "Hey, what's happenin'?", etc., which continue until Marvin starts singing. The voices reappear at a few other points in the song. The featured instrument is a saxophone. Here Marvin protests the Vietnam War and police response to other protests, including the Kent State massacre of 1970.
God Is Love
(2:51) - Here Marvin gets religious. He warns us not to speak evil of God, but instead to revere Him. Marvin lists various reasons why God is his friend. The tempo is moderately slow. Many instruments play here, including horns, chimes, a flute, an oboe, and string instruments.
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
(3:11) - As you might expect from the parenthetical part of the title, this is Marvin's lament over environmental degradation. Instruments include chimes, a saxophone, and a piano. At 2:44 the tempo starts to decelerate and people chant.
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
(3:01) - This song features a saxophone, a piano, and drums that sound like someone striking a pan. Before people saw the money they made, the government seized it. The government also sent inner-city youths to die in Vietnam. Those were among the injustices about which Marvin sang in this song.
Save The Children
(3:10) - Bells are among the instruments in this song. In some parts, Marvin speaks; of those lines, he sings some right after speaking them. Before he sings about saving the children, he pleads that the world be saved. If we are to save the children, we must save the world in which they live. But I am left with one question: save the children from what?
Sad Tomorrows (aka Flyin' High)
(2:23) - The tempo is slow. At first I thought this song was about skydiving ("Flyin' high in the friendly sky..."). But after listening more closely ("...without leavin' the ground"), I realized that it's actually about drug addiction. And that certainly leads to a bleak future!
You're The Man
(3:09; longer version 5:46) - The person to whom the song is sung is apparently a presidential candidate who has a plan for solving problems such as high unemployment and high taxation. If the man does indeed have a workable plan, the narrator will vote for him. When the shorter version fades out, Marvin, over his own scat singing, speaks, "Don't you understand? There's misery in the land." In the longer version, that continues for another minute. Then he sings about people marching on Washington, plus an interesting pair of lines: "Politics and hypocrites / Is turning us all into lunatics." This version fades out with Marvin repeating "Got to vote for you."
The World Is Rated X
(3:50) - This moderately slow song opens with a drum roll remotely resembling the clanking of pans. Other instruments include horns and a saxophone. The world certainly is rated X--high crime rates, polluted air and water, rampant sex and violence in movies and on TV, and governmental incompetence.
(3:45) - Most of the time the drums play softly. A saxophone also plays in this song. Marvin sings kind of softly most of the time, too. He sings some lines in 12/8 time.
Let's Get It On
(3:56) - This song features both a high-pitched sax and a low-pitched sax. The narrator believes that he and the girl shouldn't hold back their feelings for each other any longer. When he asks that they "get it on," he means that they should start now to experience the physical and spiritual joys of sex.
Come Get To This
(2:39) - Among the instruments in this song are a tambourine and a sax. In both this and the next song, the narrator misses his girlfriend, who has been gone a long time.
Just To Keep You Satisfied
(4:26) - This slow song opens with a 6-second orchestral-string solo. A sax is also featured. All the narrator wanted was to keep his wife satisfied. But somewhere, somehow, their relationship went wrong, and they have drifted irrevocably apart. For the last minute and a half, he sings, "It's too late for you and me," "It's too late for you to cry," etc. As the song slowly fades out, Marvin speaks, "Well, all we can do is, we can both try to be happy without each other
(3:53) - This is the only live recording on the whole 2-disc set. First, Marvin speaks, "You know, when you're in love, and your lover leaves you . . ." Once he starts singing, the fans start clapping and screaming. A sax plays from 2:33 to about the 3-minute mark.
I Want You
(3:54) - This fast song features a guitar, classical string instruments, and soft drums. The narrator wants the girl to want him romantically just like he wants her.
After The Dance
(3:26) - The tempo is slightly slower than moderate. Sometimes tick-tock drums play; other times regular drums accent the fourth beat of each measure. The narrator and the girl have just met at a dance hall. As they dance, they fall in love with each other. So he asks that they become boyfriend and girlfriend once the dance is over.
Got To Give It Up
(4:03) - The sound of people partying can be heard throughout the song, but during the first 4 seconds it is the only sound. This song has a disco tempo, with drums sounding like someone striking a water-filled bowl. The narrator, having long been a wallflower, finds that he needs to overcome his shyness and start dancing at the parties he attends.
When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You
(6:16) - This moderate-tempoed song features a saxophone. During the first half-minute, Marvin speaks about how false marriage vows really are: marriages are supposed to last "till death do us part," but most deteriorate long before then, as was the case with the narrator's marriage. After the first half-minute, Marvin starts singing. The narrator and his wife did their best to support, protect, and be faithful to each other, but some time ago, somewhere, they went wrong and drifted apart. On the plus side, though, he acknowledges that a broken marriage can make both partners stronger.
Ego Tripping Out
(5:12) - This song has a moderate disco tempo. The way Marvin speaks during the first minute indicates that his character has a very high ego. He brags about his limo, his ability to get girls to dance with him, his fancy house, and the amount of money he has to spend. But sooner or later, his ego will crash; he will start feeling miserable.
(3:53) - This song, slightly faster than moderate, features chimes. The narrator tells the girl that the world will look like a happy place if she'll bring out the love inside her. During the second half of the song, Marvin sings lines like "Praise Him God
when you go to work / Praise him when your feelings hurt / Praise Him when you're feeling bad / Praise Him when you're feelin' sad."
Heavy Love Affair
(3:45) - This song, slightly slower than moderate, features horns, a sax, and the clanging of a pan. Lots of women love the narrator, but his strongest love is for the particular gal to whom he's singing. Thus, his relationship with her is a "very special love affair."