Marvin Gaye was a versatile artist who spoke on a multitude of topics; however, the bulk of his compositions from 1971 and onwards were spurred by his acute spirituality and tapping into psychology.
THE will dissect him topically, starting with his work in chronological order:
- Politics—being born and raised in a then-legally segregated Washington, D.C., Gaye had a strong political awareness. He struggled with the double consciousness that W.E.B. DuBois wrote of. He never forgot the feeling living in the city where federal legislation is passed to enforce civil liberties while being restricted from entering federal parks due to his race. His complex relationship with the government was further complicated by issues with the Internal Revenue Service that would haunt him until his death. His music further addressed ecological dangers, police brutality, and child abuse.
- Sexuality—Gaye was instrumental in taking the black male sexual narrative from bestiality to an amorous mentality. Black men were exhibited as sexual brutes and incapable of appreciating the female experience for centuries. Gaye showed that just as a black man could captivate with his physicality, he could also stimulate with his mentality.
- Spirituality—raised in the Hebrew Pentecostal sector the House of God, Gaye found Biblical similitude in all areas of his life. He often struggled with the fact that he sang what he called “the devil’s music.” Despite the carnal extremes of his life, he was always held a conviction for Christ as the Savior as well teachings of the Old Testament.
- Isolation—Gaye often took periods of time to be alone to reflect. He had the gift to take his thoughts and lyrically transform them to be universal for listeners. His bouts of isolation could be spurred for various reasons—creative blocks, depression, or difficulties in his personal life. His music spoke to the struggle to connect, whether it is by choice or by force.
Gaye’s discography addresses even more topics than these listed above. In time, they will be explored.
But first, we will explore his artistry with more structure as means of thoroughly appreciating his work.