Marvin Gaye’s album Here My Dear is a classic album for many reasons.
Not only was the production on the album stellar, but the concept of the album also helped to make this a classic. Conceptually, the album touched on the deteriorating marriage between Gaye, and Berry Gordy’s sister Anna. The album serves as a powerful chapter closure in the relationship and resonates with a lot of people for that very reason.
In music critic David Ritz’s biography Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye released in 1985, Ritz creates a book that gives Gaye’s music some clarity and explains a lot about the singer through several different interviews. Behind the sex symbol façade of Gaye, who is one of the most prolific voices in soul music, lived a sad and messed up boy with something to prove. With the complexities of the relationships in his life, mainly Anna and his father, there stood a boy who’s only platform to gain acceptance was behind a microphone. In the book, Ritz goes between Gaye’s early life as a child to ultimately his death in 1984 a day before his birthday.
What made this book work so much different than the typical biography is the fact that Gaye and Ritz had a real friendship. Gaye read the Ray Charles book that Ritz wrote and asked for him to do a biography about his life. After agreeing to do so these two built a bond that lasted until disputes over the song “Sexual Healing,” where Ritz helped create but got no credit. The friendship allowed for better interviews with his Gaye’s parents and siblings, as well as a more in-depth view into which Gaye was. It allowed fans of Gaye and his music to see the relationship between him and his father that was volatile that ultimately was the cause of his death. In a quote about their relationship and sexual inadequacy,
“Feelings of sexual inadequacy permeated the life of Marvin Gaye Jr. Complicating matters even more was his father’s sexual ambivalence. Both men saw sex as a dangerous force that threatened and finally destroyed their peace of mind and the virtuous life they aspired to lead.”
What was also addressed in great detail using that quote, as a reference was Gaye’s relationship towards sex. Reading the book, readers will see Gaye’s almost hesitant and timid views on sex and how his commitment to religion somewhat made him fearful to proceed in the act. One of my favorite quotes from the book comes from this theme, which is, “It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in sex. I was. But women were meant to be put on a pedestal. Back then, sex wasn’t as free as it is today.” Another favorite quote that comes from this theme is, “There’s a difference between reaching a woman with your song and reaching her with your body. One is fantasy and the other’s reality. If you’re a singer, who’s a sex symbol you’re likely to confuse the two. When I was a kid, if I was singing to a room full of girls I could work it to any of them—everyone of them could be mine. That’s a heavy burden to bear.”
Readers are also introduced to the relationships between his two wives: Anna Gordy, and Janis Hunter. One of the oddest quotes or ideas rather came when Gaye was talking about his wife Anna who he knew was having relationships with other men. Gaye says, “I’ suppose I’ve always been obsessed with the notion of another man making love to my woman. In my fantasy, that man is always more powerful than me. He alone can satisfy her while I can only watch.” When Gaye met the beautiful Janis Hunter who would become his second wife, he was still married and Hunter was 17 years old but he was instantly drawn to her. He said “I knew only one thing—this lady had worked some sure enough magic on my soul. She danced through my dreams. The girl was in my blood.” He hid her from the world as they moved around, and he was really in love with her. Reading his feelings about Hunter was beautiful and the hopeless romantic I am really was drawn to this part.
Now, one of the most interesting parts to me—if you’re a UnSung fan you may find this to be interesting as well. Fans of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell know that Terrell collapsing on the stage in Gaye’s arms before she died had a tremendous impact on Gaye and caused him to go into isolation for a period of time. “When I learned how sick she was, I cried. Love seemed cruel to me. Love was a lie. Tammi was the victim of the violent side of love—at least that’s how I felt. I have no first hand knowledge of what really killed her, but it was a deep vibe, as though she was dying for everyone who couldn’t find love. My heart was broken.” On Terrell’s episode of UnSung, there was speculation that singer/songwriter Valerie Simpson, finished recording all of Terrell’s vocals on the album that would become the end of their collaborative duets. Simpson said that was untrue, however, in this book Gaye said that she did. Interesting.
With that being said, this is a really good book and I recommend it to everyone. After reading this book, I Want You, and Here My Dear, makes more sense. Prior to reading this book, I thought those albums were beautiful, great vocals, great lyrics, and great production, however I never really knew so much the back-story of Gaye’s life. After reading it, it all becomes a little more clear to me. Great book.
“I can’t see anything wrong with sex between two consenting anybodies. I think we make far too much of it… sex is sex and love is love. When combined, they work well together, if two people are of about the same mind. But, they are really discrete needs and should be treated as such… I don’t believe in overly moralistic philosophies. Have your sex. It can be very exciting, if you’re lucky. I hope the music I present here makes you lucky.”