2nd April 1939-1st April 1984
THE NEWS echoed the shooting of Sam Cooke in 1964, but the circumstances had the ring of true Greek tragedy: Marvin Gaye was shot on the eve of his 45th birthday “in self defence” by his own father, the Reverend Marvin Gaye Sr… the father in whose Washington DC church the young Marvin had gained his early musical grounding.
For two years from 1955 Marvin was in the Don Covay-led local doo-wop group The Rainbows, who scored a regional hit with ‘Mary Lee‘ (Red Robin/Pilgrim), before forming a splinter group The Marquees who recorded on OKeh (as a result of fellow former Rainbow Billy Stewart’s involvement with Bo Diddley on the label).
In 1959 Harvey Fuqua, who had been a judge when Marvin won a high school singing contest, recruited the Marquees to become his reformed Moonglows — Marvin singing lead on ‘Mama Loocie‘ (Chess). Settling in Detroit, Harvey married Gwen Gordy (whose Anna label pre-dated Motown) and Marvin married Anna Gordy, so it’s not too surprising to find the fortunes of Harvey and Marvin becoming closely entwined with those of big brother Berry Gordy Jr!
Although his solo debut in 1961 was an album of standards, ‘The Soulful Moods Of Marvin Gaye’, in an attempt by Berry to diversify the still fledgling Tamla label, Marvin finally started his hit singles streak in the autumn of 1962 with the then typically percussive ‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow‘, produced by William Stevenson and backed (in their own vinyl debut) by Martha & The Vandellas.
Only this last Saturday on Radio 1’s ‘Hitsville USA’ series, Marvin observed that he had worked with everyone in the Motown family (“except perhaps the Elgins”), and indeed in true family spirit his chief role early on had been that of drummer on many sessions with the Miracles and others! To move on apace he was of course also used as the (not entirely willing?) partner of first Mary Wells and then Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell and Diana Ross in a series of successful duets which, in this country especially, did much to undermine his own identity.
Also, with William Stevenson he wrote and produced for such “outside” acts as the Artistics (on OKeh — an earlier loyalty?), while for Motown’s subsidiary Soul label his finest production in 1969 was the Originals sublime smoocher ‘Baby I’m For Real‘.
In the meantime as a gospel influenced soul singer with an intimately caressing vocal style, his biggest US hits had been ‘Pride And Joy‘ (summer ’63), ‘How Sweet It Is’ (Xmas ’64) and ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ (Xmas ’68) … this latter unreleased for many months after its recording in a disagreement probably over Marvin’s unhappiness at the emphasis then placed on his duet hits. However, once finally out, ‘Grapevine’ became the Motown company’s biggest ever hit at that time and paved the way for Marvin to take greater control of his own recording destiny.
The result was a watershed not only for Marvin or Motown but for soul as a whole, the moody introspective self-produced concept album ‘What’s Going On’ and its spring ’71 title track smash, built up from layers of gently drifting amorphous sound. This approach continued through the sexual ‘Let’s Get It On’ (summer ’73), rhythmic ‘Got To Give It Up’ (spring ’77) and was triumphantly re-orchestrated for electronic instruments on autumn 1982’s climactic ‘Sexual Healing’.
However, between times, Marvin’s personal life had driven him to depression, and he had finally split with Motown to record for CBS. Working with Harvey Fuqua as advisor and recording in Belgium, Marvin Gaye’s bold experiment with ‘Sexual Healing’ had given his career a much needed boost. Now in a sad full circle of fate, his life has been taken away by the man who gave it. The joy he gave others will live on…
ODDS ‘N’ BODS
SUNDAY NIGHT found London’s Horizon Radio responding to the news with continuous Marvin Gaye music while Radio Invicta prattled on in obvious ignorance until they managed to slot a brief tribute into their schedule: however, given a few hours preparation, it was Capital’s Roger Scott on Monday afternoon who played a neatly edited virtually chronological 25 minute medley of all Marvin’s milestone records . . . I only met Marvin Gaye once, when Smokey Robinson introduced us backstage at the Brooklyn Fox during a Murray The K show in ’64: on the same bill were the Supremes, Temptations, Ronettes, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Millie Small, Dusty Springfield, Searchers and a whole host more Merseybeat groups, plus a full feature movie, all in rotation four shows a day for a week — ah, memories! . . . Capital’s Saturday night soul DJ Phil Allen is about to upset his most loyal listener, but Tony Monson does an expanded disco sales chart show Sundays 8- 10pm on Horizon Radio stereo 102.5FM, now going daily 7am-1am (more at weekends) . . . Oscar J Jennings has left Skyline for weekday evenings 6-8pm drive time on London Weekend Radio 92.5FM — or LWR as it’s known, being on air 7 days a week! . . . Chris Hill, Carol and myself had a great trip to Cumbria, gorging again at the world famous Sharrow Bay Hotel on Ullswater, but it was a pity the crowd at Ernie & Kathleen Priestman’s lavishly lit Old Hall in Egremont hadn’t been kept more up to date musically — however, the night got really good, the lighting (including four flying saucers on tracks and a £21,000 laser) would rival anything bar the Hippodrome, and Judy Hutchinson made a lovely tall dancing partner! . . . Chris Paul (South Harrow Bogarts) has been using The Champs ‘Tequila‘ as a crowd wind-up for years and keeps having to buy replacements as he sells his copies — I wonder, did Chris Hill get one off him?! . . . Chris Brown is threatening to play a live Tom Jones medley of ’60s Wilson Picket-type things at Caister, this weekend (I told you it was getting like Northern Soul!), which may be what scared punters off from the now cancelled Showstoppers trip to Jersey . . . Jeffrey Osborne has added an extra London date at Hammersmith Odeon on April 27 . . . Slave wind up their UK tour Sunday (8) at Glasgow Zanzibar’s monster funk all-dayer, Monday (9) at Bradford Caesar’s Palace — meanwhile Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Davy DMX cut it up Sun/Mon (8/9) at London’s Venue before heading next weekend to Nottingham’s Rock City (Fri 13), Aylesbury Friars (Sat 14) . . . Motown again got Bobby Womack for Britain, while London have the Philly World label from which first product (already promo-ed ahead even of US release) in two weeks will be Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes ‘Don’t Give Me Up‘, a blandly predictable 119bpm “soul” swayer over bumping M&M-mixed Nick Martinelli electronics, and a revival by Terri Wells of the mafia’s fave D. Spinners oldie! . . . Collage’s ‘Get In Touch’ LP is available here (Solar 96-0240-1), if you can’t find their 12in original . . . Gary Crowley’s front door to your living room, Channel 4’s ‘Earsay’ has theme music by Ian Levine & Fiachra Trench which as ‘Frantic Love‘ by Eastbound Expressway is due soon on guess which boys town label . . . I wonder what would happen if the HI-NRG chart didn’t mention anything until it was on full commercial release? . . . Earlene Bentley Saturday (7) plays Edinburgh Fire Island, where Laura Pallas will be lucky ever to have a hit . . . Southampton’s Warehouse has metamorphosed into the hi-tech Raffles featuring general music, though Adrian Dunbar makes Saturday a non-stop dance night and as from Monday April 16 starts a new weekly branch of Bolts for the boys . . . LWR’s Sunday noon-2pm jazz doc, Bob Jones souls Royston’s The Bull Thursday (5) . . . Invicta’s Darren Fogel & Skyline’s Patrick French soul West Norwood’s Norwood Suite Fridays (£1 off if you show this mention!) . . . Horizon’s Gilles Peterson joins Paul Oakenfold Fridays to funk under-18s at Wallington Public Hall’s Candy Box, and Peter Smedley Sundays to jazz-samba Sutton Christie’s wine bar (Surrey) . . . Essex Radio’s soul DJ Dave Gregory funks Southend’s re-vamped and laser-lit TOTS Tuesdays . . . hip HOP!
TWENTY YEARS ON…
THIS WEEK in 1964 The Beatles achieved the still unequalled feat of having the top five singles in the Billboard US Hot 100 (‘Can’t Buy Me Love’/’Twist And Shout’/’She Loves You’/I Want To Hold Your Hand’/ ‘Please Please Me’). However, of far greater significance to black music fans were all the soul hits which in those days crossed over as a matter of course into the US pop chart — a subject I keep going on about! — but if you need convincing just check through these, from w/e April 4, 1964: Betty Everett ‘Shoop Shoop Song’, Temptations ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’, Marvin Gaye ‘You’re A Wonderful One’, Tommy Tucker ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’, Bobby Bland ‘Ain’t Nothing You Can Do’, Chuck Berry ‘Nadine’, Dean & Jean ‘Hey Jean Hey Dean’, Chubby Checker ‘Hey Bobba Needle’, Ray Charles ‘My Heart Cries For You’, Lenny Welch ‘Ebb Tide’, Ray Charles ‘Baby Don’t You Cry’, Mary Wells ‘My Guy’ (its chart debut at 50), Major Lance ‘The Matador’, Soul Sisters ‘I Can’t Stand It’, Marvelettes ‘He’s A Good Guy’, Little Stevie Wonder ‘Castles In The Sand’, Miracles ‘The Man In You’, Impressions ‘I’m So Proud’, Shirelles ‘Sha La La’, Vibrations ‘My Girl Sloopy’, Anna King & Bobby Byrd ‘Baby Baby Baby’, Irma Thomas ‘Wish Someone Would Care’, Jerry Butler ‘Giving Up On Love’, Ruby & The Romantics ‘Our Everlasting Love’, Coasters ‘T’ Ain’t Nothin’ To Me’, Tymes ‘To Each His Own’, Tams ‘You Lied To Your Daddy’, Gloria Lynne ‘I Should Care’, Freddie Scott ‘Where Does Love Go’, Contours ‘Can You Do It’, King Curtis ‘Soul Serenade’, Tams ‘It’s All Right’, Ben E King ‘That’s When It Hurts’, Otis Redding ‘Come To Me’, Baby Washington ‘I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face’, Gloria Lynne ‘Be Anything (But Be Mine)’, Chuck Jackson ‘Hand It Over’, BB King ‘How Blue Can You Get’, Ronettes ‘(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up’ . . . fair makes your mouth water, huh? Those were the ones that I marked at the time as having a soul sensibility (they were also the ones that I got), but they omit Louis Armstrong ‘Hello Dolly’ and Danny Williams ‘White On White’! The ‘British Invasion’ opened the US chart to black acts as white Americans were thrown into confusion, but under not dissimilar circumstances the US Hot 100 of w/e March 31 1984 could only field 21 black crossovers to 1964’s impressive 39.
CHANGE: ‘Change Of Heart’ LP (US Atlantic/RFC 80151-1)
Sure to top the disco chart in double quick time, the dynamite ultra-nagging 107½bpm title track jitterer is like Yarbrough & Peoples singing ‘She’s Strange’, produced by masters of the current hot tempo Jimmy Jam Harris & Terry Lewis, and the last part is true, fact! HOT! Rarely has a record excited me and my dancers so much (though on current form even if out here it probably wouldn’t cross over until Christmas, snigger snigger!). Other toned down Jimmy Jam tracks are the 110bpm ‘You Are My Melody‘, 109bpm ‘Warm‘, slow 72/36bpm ‘Say You Love Me Again’, current group leader Timmy Allen handling the Kashif-ish 113bpm ‘Lovely Lady’ slowed-down ‘Searching’-like 107bpm ‘True Love’ (144½bpm at 45rpm!), more mundane 122bpm ‘Got My Eyes On You’, 111bpm ‘It Burns Me Up’.
DETROIT SPINNERS: ‘Love Is In Season’ (LP ‘Cross Fire’ Atlantic 780150-1)
Already creating a Cameo-sized buzz on advance 7in (where unbelievably it’s only on the B-side), this Leon Sylvers III-produced gorgeous gently swaying 101½bpm soul satisfying vocal delight will obviously be massive at Caister this weekend and could revive the Harvey Fuqua-founded veteran group’s fortunes yet again. The 7in A-side’s rolling 114bpm ‘Right Or Wrong‘ with its old (‘Twine Time’?) bassline, lushly pushing 112bpm ‘Two Of A Kind‘, chunkily current 111bpm ‘Not Just Another Lover‘ are other good dancers, along with the 122bpm ‘Keep On Keepin’ On’, 0-108bpm ‘All Your Love’, 65½bpm ‘Secrets’, 65bpm ‘Our Time For Love’, and now mandatory fast ugly 144bpm title track — but this is the season for ‘Love Is In Season’!
STANLEY CLARKE: ‘Heaven Sent You’ (LP ‘Time Exposure’ Dutch Epic 25486)
Much of the set is listenable but undanceable dexterity ‘n flash from the bassist/synthesist, who luckily for this one truly terrific soulful mellow (0-)102bpm swaying jogger has recruited as vocalist Shalamar main man Howard Hewett, who’s never sounded so convincing. A must! The recently 12-inched jaggedly funky instrumental 122bpm ‘Are You Ready‘ and gently loping vocal 109bpm ‘Future Shock‘ (not Curtis/Herbie’s) are OK too, though it’s Howard’s hit. Continue reading “April 7, 1984: Marvin Gaye obituary, Change, Detroit Spinners, Stanley Clarke, Kool & The Gang, Bobby King”