By early 1982 my love affair with the Top 40 was all but over. I still consider 1979-81 to be a fantastic era for music; blessed with the energy of punk, lyrically influenced by the societal issues of the day and stylistically inspired by 60s, ska and roots – at least the stuff I loved anyway. By ’82 synthesisers and emotionless new romantics with fake plastic sentiment had replaced Dexys, The Jam and The Specials. Fuck that. I was looking elsewhere for inspiration and musical kicks. I was heading back to the 60s.
Marvin Gaye was next. A few of his singles were well known to me inspiring me to make this 3-disc mountain of classic Marvin my next purchase and new obsession. It contained everything from his early Motown releases up to and including gems from his classic What’s Going On, the tracks from which soon became my focus. Marvin Gaye sung like an angel, oozing laid-back cool. Duets with Mary Wells, Kim Weston and Tami Terrell just brought smiles, epitomising happiness through perfect vocal harmony. But it was those later tracks that I couldn’t resist – this was cool with a conscience – groundbreaking for the Motown hit factory.
Once more this was my classroom. Inner City Blues, What’s Going On and Mercy Mercy Me raised my conscience, despite being penned ten years previously these issues were still real and even more relevant. “Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas, fish full of mercury / What about this overcrowded land / How much more abuse from man can she stand?” And this music was beautiful; notes were gently caressed, beats were blessed, flowing with ethereal refrain and Marvin’s vocals… stunning, soulful and sublime.
My love of Marvin Gaye still remains after more than 30 years. He led the way in developing black music both musically and politically, changing attitudes and beliefs whilst influencing his and future generations. I look at this album cover and I feel joy, I feel awakening and I feel love.