January 28, 2008

Let's Not Get It On

Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, and the Notorious B.I.G. It's not just a murderer's bullet that they share. No, they all made creepy, name naming, self-exploitative "soul-bearing" opuses that the Rolling Stone honored in their Top 500. I guess people are supposed to relate to their confessional nakedness but I don't. Why would I want to take Lennon's primal scream-ing psychotherapeutic ride? Why would I care about Biggie's suicidal dreams and small time drug deals? Why would I care about Marvin's messy divorce?

We all make choices in life. Most of us steer clear of being divorce lawyers. We stay away when our neighbors (or friends) have loud violent domestic mash ups. And in 1978 most chose not to listen to Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear. Amazingly, just last week, a double CD retrospective of Here, My Dear was released on Hip-O records that includes all fourteen songs remixed by contemporary producers. 150+ minutes of intolerable whining, finger pointing, and general insanity. Mercy, mercy, me.

On Here, My Dear Marvin is mad as hell (about paying attorney fees) and not going to take it (reason, a dignified grown-up approach) any more. Perhaps, for the album listener's sake, Marvin should have gone to a mediator. Because then we could have heard his poor ex-wife's point of view. He said she said is far more compelling than he said he said he said he said.

Paradoxically, the most powerful voice on the album is not Marvin's but his voiceless ex's. When he accuses her of "selling his gun" we totally agree with her decision. We want the judge to side with her, we want her to win. The album exists even as an odd and unintended feminist tome; Marvin's voice reveals the internal psychosis of an abusive husband. He has literally taken her voice away, suppressed her expression and denied her any meaningful public forum. Through his deranged thought processes, hateful words and meticulously documented actions he shows unadulterated marital cruelty. And somehow he still thinks he's the hero!

Your friends' divorces and break-ups also affirm dark and disturbing qualities and emotions that you always suspected but never absolutely knew were there. As a result your relationship with revealed divorcee can never be the same. Here, My Dear is no different. Musically, the most disturbing part of Here, My Dear is not the merciless, misogynistic, sometimes third-person, always accusatory lyrics but the effect those lyrics have on the remainder of the Marvin Gaye catalog. "Sexual Healing", "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Let's Get It On" are subsequently rendered impotent and irrelevant, desperate crooning from a man to whom relationship breakup = restraining order.

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