End Notes: Musical Tributes to Marvin Gaye

Through the Grapevine

Marvin Gaye is one of the great icons of the Motown sound. His life was tragically cut short at the hands of his own father. However, his music and legacy lives on not only through his own recordings but also through the many songs that mention Marvin Gaye and pay homage to his music or his persona as a sex symbol. Some are great songs in their own right, while others leave a lot less to the imagination.

In this hub I will discuss a shortlist of songs both recent and past which mention Marvin Gaye in some respect and if the song really reflects the legacy of Gaye's timeless sound.

The Commodores: Musical Memories

In the mid-80s, many people were unsure of how The Commodores would fare post Lionel Richie. While they didn't have too many gems after his departure, they did manage to create a signature tribute song to slain Motown compatriot Marvin Gaye as well as soul legend Jackie Wilson.

The song, "Nightshift" is a sweet mid-tempo recording of the group's memories of Gaye and Wilson. Released less than a year after their respective deaths, it provides insight into the musical void they both left.

While one would assume it is very sad, it has an optimistic tone to it. They go onto say that the contributions of both Marvin and Jackie live on through their memories and in the perceived afterlife they both lead full of other musicians.

It was so well received it won the group a Grammy in 1985 by best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo/Group. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to keep the listening public interested in the post-Lionel outfit of The Commodores.

Sweetly sung and full of memories, this song has been covered by other artists and rerecorded by The Commodores in 2010 to pay tribute to Michael Jackson. It definitely carries on the legacy of Marvin for making poignant and insightful records that leave a lasting impression on the listener.

Spandau Ballet: One-Hit Wonderful

If you were around in the 1980s, you more than likely remember "True" from the classic teen flick Sixteen Candles. If you weren't around in the 1980s, you probably remember the song from movies like "Wedding Crashers" and "Crazy, Stupid Love" as well as various television shows.

British outfit Spandau Ballet actually released the song in 1983, a year before Marvin Gaye was even murdered. However, it is no less of a tribute. The lead singer mentions Gaye in the lyric "Listening to Marvin (All Night Long)," in reference to how Gaye influenced the groups sound for their music.

The song is not completely like Marvin's music, but is soulful and remarkable in its delivery and approach. The "ah, ah, ah..." hook sounds effortless and romantic. It reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, but unfortunately Spandau Ballet became nothing more than a one-hit in the US.

Drake Gets Sentimental

Drake is no stranger to showing his emotions as an artist. The guy formerly known as Jimmy from Degrassi has been the 21st century edition of LL Cool J in terms of expressing himself. Marvin's Room is no different.

Marvin's Room addresses Drake's adjustment to fame in terms of his relationships and his adjustment to fame. It doesn't explicitly mention Marvin Gaye, but you can hear the influence of Gaye in Drake's sing-song rhythm. I'm not saying Drake's rap-singing is necessarily the same as Gaye's legendary voice, but his inflections mirror some of Gaye's recordings. Namely, his semi-confessional "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)."

Even though Drake is honest it's almost a little TMI, but of course Marvin Gaye was never one to censor himself either. Though this isn't a traditional tribute, you can hear his honesty and sincerity in a way that's unique and reflective of Marvin Gaye.

Teena Marie's Late Love Letter

Teena Marie has a way of singing that stirs your emotions and your thoughts. The natural romance that shines through her voice is sweet and haunting especially now since she passed late last year.

Her musical tribute to Marvin Gaye was one of the first songs to reflect sorrow and sadness over the Motown icons death. This is especially poignant since Teena Marie was a labelmate.

She references songs as well as interpolates rhythm sections that transforms the song from tragic love story to impassioned celebration. It is definitely a song to listen to if you'd like to understand about Marvin Gaye's impact on music.

Big Sean Uses Little Imagination

If you wondering who Big Sean is, look no further but do listen much further either. The latest protégé of Kanye West, who is also signed to West's label GOOD music is putting out just the opposite. But given his name (he's not really big in size or stature if you ask me), I think he's trying to do this on a regular basis.

The song is called "Marvin & Chardonnay" and you'll go want to listen to the real Marvin and drink a lot of Chardonnay after hearing this. Utilizing a beat that in any other situations might work, it is highly stereotypical of current rap music. And by that I mean objectifying women, referring to status in terms of sexual power, and just general bad ideas and wordplay.

This is not anything I think Marvin Gaye stands for via his music. While he was open about celebrating love and sexuality, it was in a way that was powerful and mysterious. Big Sean is anything but in this song, but if you want an interesting conversation piece.

What Say You?

I'd like to know what everyone thinks about these songs and how they reflect the musical impact of Marvin Gaye. Also, as a funny aside, what you really think of Big Sean's video because between the silly squeaking noises and the girl he's with it looks like he might be eaten alive in the process of seduction.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments!

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Comments 25 comments

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Big Sean...pffft that song didn't impress me. I love me some Marvin Gaye! What a voice on that man. I was devasted when he was killed, I thought it was an April Fools Joke since he died on April 1st but it wasn't :(

I enjoyed your hub, thanks for keeping Marvin's memory alive. I'm still hoping they FINALLY make his life story into a movie. Maybe when they get done remaking every hit movie they will. Voted UP!!!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Sunshine! Yeah, Big Sean should call himself Big Joke because that has to be one of the worst pickup/ romance lines ever. I thought this would be interesting because Marvin Gaye is either regarded as an icon of romance or just someone who sold sex. But I agree, if you listen to his songs you hear his sensuality and sincerity in every note.

I kept hearing about Jesse Martin (Greene from Law and Order doing it) playing Marvin Gaye but it seems to be this myth that's never coming to pass. I really hope he does get a story because I know it will be awesome!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Jesse Martin that's who is supposed to play Marvin, I couldn't remember! Thank you! I really hope they make the movie because I wanna see it! I know one of the issues was a budget. Let's Get It On hollywood! :)


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I couldn't agree more!


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Very nicely done....this is great tribute to Marvin Gaye as well...I found many things interesting in the hub...i think the artists that paid tribute to Marvin did an excellent job as well. Glad to see Spandau Ballet did a tribute as well...it good to see they were not just a one hit wonder...thanks for posting this hub.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Cogerson for stopping by! I love Spandau Ballet, I just wish they were bigger in the states.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

Marvin Gaye was awesome. I continue to listen to his music. It will forever be a part of my memories. Great tribute you have pt together here. Voted up!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Cyndi10, I agree Marvin Gaye's music is timeless :).


Larry Okeke profile image

Larry Okeke 4 years ago from Enugu, Nigeria

every morning, i wake up with the alarm on my phone singing "Sexual healing"... and boy oh boy! what a wonderful way to wake up! Marvin Gaye was a master in his line of profession and am so happy i stumbled across a hub like this, aimed at die hard fans like myself. voted up and interesting (I wish there was "over-interesting" here).. and a hub this wonderful? am now following you too


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Larry! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 4 years ago from Jamaica

Nightshift is legendary, Listening to Commodores all the way.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks rasta1!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I first commented 11 months ago! Wow, time sure does fly when you're having fun! :)


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Yeah it sure does :)!


rcrumple profile image

rcrumple 4 years ago from Kentucky

Alecia - Actually, Spandau Ballet had three hits, True, Gold and Communication Breakdown. Not all hit Top Ten, but were high in the charts.

I know many have given Marvin tributes, but none will ever touch his greatness. "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" is only one song that many have tried to show respect in doing, but again, no one can ever touch him. There are some that are untouchable... Marvin, Stevie, Diana, Gladys, Aretha... kinda like Marvin and Tammi Terrell once sang, "Ain't Nothin' Like The Real Thing." Great Hub!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks rcrumple! Didn't know that about Spandau Ballet. I agree it's hard to match the greatness of Marvin and others :).


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I fell in love once dancing to Marvin. What a voice he had;like velvet.

Great tribute. I voted this Hub UP, etc. and shared.


prettynutjob30 profile image

prettynutjob30 4 years ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

Marvin Gaye had such an amazing voice, such a tragedy how his life was ended. Great hub voted up, awesome and more.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much Mary! I agree his voice was like velvet.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi prettynutjob30,

I'm glad he touched so many while he was here. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

Lenny Kravitz to portray Marvin Gaye...I am so looking forward to this movie! I hear that Marvin's son is not happy about it. Uh oh!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Sunshine,

The funny thing is that Marvin's son and Lenny have been friends since grade school. He said he planned to talk to him about this. I heard his main gripe had to do with the movie focusing on the tumultuous events leading up to his death- mainly the late 1970s and early 1980s. I hope it doesn't tear their friendship apart but I still want to it to happen!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Pull up, Pull up....oh dear. Guess I'm getting old ;) This was a lovely way of paying tribute to a truly great singer who is still missed.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi tillsontitan,

That song is so horrible I'd rather forget I heard it. But thankfully most people who pay tribute to Marvin Gaye do an admirable job of capturing his legacy. Thanks for coming by and commenting!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 22 months ago from Orlando, FL

I continue to impatiently await the movie of Marvin Gaye's life.

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