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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!