Sunday, April 02, 2006

Happy birthday, Marvin Gaye

Today is Marvin Gaye's birthday. Mine, too. Gaye, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Jessie Belvin, et al. They all wanted the credibility that singing the Great American Songbook would bring them. Not that there's anything wrong with “Bring It On Home to Me,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Higher and Higher,” and “Goodnight, My Love.” Early in Marvin Gaye's career, he had a one-for-me, one-for-them arrangement with Motown, i.e. an album of standards, an album of funk, ad infinitum. But that quickly fell by the wayside after the first couple of hits like “Hitchhike” and “Mickey’s Monkey.” Just as well; even with arrangements by the likes of Ernie Wilkins and Melba Liston, the standards album (Hello Broadway, When I'm Alone I Cry, etc.) weren't very effective. The most arresting example of this "schizophrenia" that befell most of the big male African-American non-jazz singers of that era is the posthumously released Gaye album, Vulnerable. On it he sings standards, mostly double-tracked vocals, with arrangements by Bobby Scott. In a very schematic manner, one vocal track is done in a very conventional male crooner fashion, while the one layered over it is sung in Gaye's usual r 'n b style. Without realizing it, he had pioneered a new, hybrid, minor genre of American Pop. And a one-off at that! I wonder if Gaye ever fully comprehended, before he died, just how personally revealing this amazing document is? more

1 comment:

Alex Gildzen said...

birthday salutations: may you have music & chocolate cake all day long.