If the definition of soul music is literal in that it comes directly from the soul, then the personification of that music has to be Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr., better known to the world as Marvin Gaye.
It's never only been just about Marvin's songs as much as it's been about the style he created. He was a singer's singer whose lyrics inspired an entire generation to action, to question the status quo. To look at themselves. It's not hyperbole to say that he was iconic. Whether during the clean-cut, suit-wearing '60s or the bearded, tight-pants-wearing '70s, with Marvin, it was always personal.
It's certainly no coincidence that his first successful single at Motown was the autobiographical "Stubborn Kind of Fellow." That described Marvin's Motown days to a tee, as he never backed down from his creative vision in order to appease label management, or to follow the formulaic "Motown sound."
He simply refused to be pigeonholed, and Motown head Berry Gordy had to relent, going as far as asking Gaye to write songs for other artists on the roster. He was an idol long before it was popular for a black man to be so, thanks to hits like "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)." And don't get it twisted. In the late '70s and early '80s, with songs like "Sexual Healing" and "Let's Get It On," women routinely threw undergarments in his direction. Yup, ladies loved Cool Gaye.
His duets were legendary, especially with female artist Tammi Terrell. Their numerous hits include "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and of course, "You're All I Need to Get By."
His signature solo hits of the '70s allowed us to see Marvin's introspective, spiritual side, with the album and single "What's Going On" coming on the heels of the death of Terrell. The concept album--which is credited for taking soul music to a new frontier--spawned classics like "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)."
There's never been an artist quite like Mr. Gaye, who was tragically murdered by his own father a day before his 45th birthday. And while we'll never know what else Marvin would've shared with the world, given his moodiness and bouts with depression throughout the years, what we do know is that his talent had no ceiling.
We could go on and on today, on what would be his 69th birthday, but we won't. His presence will definitely be felt throughout the SoulBounce Top 100 Soul/R&B countdown that kicked off this past Monday. So, for now, we'll just say Happy Birthday, Marvin, the personification of soul music. You were taken from us way too soon.- Advertisement -
After the bounce, peep the rewind, where you get to see that signature Gaye swagger on display as a bespectacled Marvin struts to midcourt at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game in front of a national audience, delivering what has been called one of the best renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner." Ever.- Advertisement -