Breaking up in public: Marvin Gaye’s impressive Here, My Dear

Marvin Gaye Live 1974 (udiscovermusic.com)

Marvin Gaye Live 1974

Introduction

By 1977 Marvin Gaye had divorced his first wife. Financially broke, half of the profits he would make for his upcoming album would flow directly into his ex-wife’s pockets. That album was dedicated to the falling apart of their marriage…

Marriage to Anna Gordy

Marvin Gaye & Anna Gordy (pinterest.com)

Marvin Gaye & Anna Gordy

In 1963 Marvin Gaye married Anna Ruby Gordy. At the time Marvin was 24 years old and Anna was 41. He was an upcoming singer, she was the sister of Berry Gordy, who was the founder of the highly acclaimed Motown Records. Even though Marvin would later say he married Anna just to get into a more prominent view with Berry Gordy, the marriage was a happy one at first. They adopted a boy, Marvin III (of which Marvin was the biological father; his mother was a niece of Anna’s).

Marvin’s career took off and he had some major hits. He got attention, lots and lots of it, from women and he couldn’t resist. Fights arose between the couple. Apart from that, Marvin had his fair share of lunacy in his childhood, which was filled with preaching religious dogma’s. His father was a pastor, who loved dressing up in women’s clothing and abusing his children (both physically and mentally). As was the case with so many black artists, plagued by religious codes imprinted in their childhood, Marvin too had trouble reconciling the ideas and concepts of love and sex. It did produce stunningly beautiful music, but it proved to be disastrous for his role within the marriage.

Add Marvin’s “virgin/whore” complex around women to the mix, and a toxic picture is painted. Anna Gordy could never be Marvin’s savior. Marvin himself: Without Anna, how could I reach my next plateau? With Anna, though, how could I ever be a happy man?. At the end of the 1960’s the marriage was de facto over. Both parties were seeing others. But it never came to a divorce. Marvin was afraid he would fall from grace with Barry Gordy and Anna didn’t want to change her lifestyle and give up her husband, the big(gest?) soul-star.

Marvin Gaye & Janis Hunter (culturehash.com)

Marvin Gaye & Janis Hunter

In the beginning of the 1970’s Marvin starts writing and recording his own music. He went outside of the standard Motown mould with beautiful albums like What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On and I Want You. In 1973 Marvin fell in love with Janis Hunter, who was just 16 years old at the time. One year later their daughter Nona was born. When Hunter gets pregnant with their second child, Anna Gordy has finally had enough. She files for divorce.

Marvin delays the process. He had to pay Anna $ 6,000.- a month for partner- and child support, but he flatly refused. It even led to an arrest warrant being issued against Marvin. But no matter what Marvin did or tried, the divorce was inevitable, as were the payments. As a result of Marvin’s delays Anna demanded $ 1,000,000.-. But Marvin simply didn’t have that kind of money. He had always been hopeless with money and often invested in dubious schemes, making him lose huge amounts of money. Apart from that, he had developed a rather expensive addiction that spiraled out of control. His lawyer made a proposition: Marvin would pay $ 600,000.-. Half the amount was payable from the advances for his next album. The other half were to be paid from the profits of the album’s sales. Marvin went along (of course) with the highly unusual arrangement. The divorce was finalized in June of 1977.

“I figured I’d just do a quickie record – nothing heavy, nothing even good. Why should I break my neck when Anna was going to wind up with the money anyway? But the more I lived with the notion of doing an album for Anna, the more it fascinated me. Besides, I owed the public my best effort. Finally, I did the record out of deep passion. It became a compulsion. I had to free myself of Anna, and I saw this as the way.”

Marvin Gaye

Here, My Dear

Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear (twitter.com)

Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear

Here, My Dear was Marvin Gaye’s fifteenth album and was released on December 15th, 1978 on Tamla Records a subsidiary label of Motown.

Recordings commenced on March 24th, 1977, in his own recording studio. The majority of the lyrics were written spontaneously, oftentimes during the actual recordings themselves. Marvin played as many instruments as possible himself as well.

Lyrically it is a report on the marriage, from Marvin Gaye’s point of view. The album is explicitly dedicated to Anna Gordy. The opening lines to the album are: I guess I’d have to say this album is dedicated to you / Although perhaps you may not be happy / This is what you want.

Many songs were recorded and written immediately following courtroom visits, which makes the emotion even more tangible. In I Met A girl, the wedding vows are sung. As the song progresses the tone gets darker and darker. In the fantastic, Parliamant/Funkadelic inspired, A Funky Space Reincarnation Anna and Marvin meet again in a parallel universe. They fall in love and marry.

The album’s central (musical) theme is When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You. Gaye wonders where it all went wrong. Beautiful song, without the standard verse – refrain structure.

Anger is not so much about Marvin’s anger itself, but more about its concept and its destructive nature (Anger… can make you old… can make you sick… destroys your soul). You Can Leave, But It’s Going To Cost You is a direct quote from Anna. Anna’s Song is a surprisingly loving song about Anna.

Of course, the album only portrays one side of the story. Marvin wanted to save the marriage, whereas Anna was just out to get money. But still, Marvin tries to research his own failings and live up to some of them.

Cover

Michael Bryan painted the front cover, for which Marvin Gaye had given his detailed input. The Roman building contains a plaque with the words “Love And Marriage”. The backside contains the same scene from a different angle and shows a collapsing temple (named “matrimony”). The plaque contains the words “Pain And Divorce”.

Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear - Gatefold (twitter.com)

Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear – Gatefold

The gatefold of the cover shows the picture of a Monopoly board game that bears the word “Judgment”. Two hands over the board portray Marvin Gaye and Anna Gordy. The male hand gives a record to the female hand. The male side of the board holds tape recorders, a piano and a 1-dollar-bill. On the female side are all the worldly possessions: a house, a car, money and jewelry. In other words: the only thing Marvin had left was his music. Anna already had it all, but still wanted more. Even his music wasn’t safe from Anna’s claws. A rather mean-spirited interpretation.

Reactions

As is often the case, this beautiful album was not valued at its time and lauded by the press and (large parts of the) audience alike as being a non-commercial freak-product. It enraged Marvin, who refused to promote the album because of it. However, Marvin’s lyrics were highly praised. A very positive review of the album was published in the March 25th, 1979 issue of The New York Times.

Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear - Ad (ebay.com)

Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear – Ad

Success?

The album was not successful, at all. Disco was the norm and albums like Saturday Night Fever and Grease were popular. Disco-acts like Bee Gees, Chic and the Village People sold the most records. And here was Marvin Gaye with his subtle mix of soul, funk and gospel with lyrics that were unpleasant and real.

Many were convinced the album was nothing more than Marvin’s settlement with Anna Gordy and Motown as apposed to a being a sincere album by Marvin, which addresses the failure of his marriage.

Yet, it is remarkable the album was as unsuccessful as it was. For the first time in history, the number of divorces in America passed the 1 million mark in 1975. Within a decade those numbers had more than doubled. Many Americans experienced the exact same thing. More and more, divorce and/or relationship problems became subject matters on albums. These albums were oftentimes very successful, like Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Both albums were highly successful and touched a common collective nerve.

Anna Gordy

“I’ll give her my next album but it’ll be something she won’t want to play and it’ll be something she won’t want the world to hear because I’m gonna tell the truth.”

Marvin Gaye

But what was Anna Gordy’s take on the album? When he had finished the album, Marvin wanted Anna to hear the album. He asked engineer Art Stewart to play it for her. Anna listened, said very little and left.

Soon Anna publicly stated she would sue Marvin for $ 5,000,000.- because of invasion of privacy. It never went to trial:

“It’s taken me a while, but with the passage of time I’ve come to appreciate every form of Marvin’s music, even songs written in anger. In the end, you know, when he was very sick, he came to see me often. We stayed close.”

Anna Gordy

Marvin Gaye - A Funky Space Reincarnation - Maxi Single - The Netherlands (rockers.de)

Marvin Gaye – A Funky Space Reincarnation – Maxi Single – The Netherlands

Her handling is rather admirable, for some of the lyrics are downright nasty. “What could I do / The judge said she got to keep on living / The way she accustomed to”, “If you ever loved me with all of your heart, you’d never take a million dollars to part”,“Somebody tell me please, tell me please / Why do I have to pay attorney fees (My baby’s) Attorney fees / This is a joke / I need a smoke” and “If you want happiness you got to pay”, coupled with accusations that Marvin basically felt like a prisoner, wasn’t allowed to see his son and that Anna lied to him and God, because she never really loved him to begin with.

Debts payed?

Of course, Here, My Dear was not enough to settle his debts. Marvin Gaye was officially declared bankrupt and was obligated to make monthly payments to Anna. At the time of his passing in 1984, Marvin still owed $ 293,000.- to Anna.

Songs

All songs written by Marvin Gaye, unless stated otherwise.

Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear - Back cover (twitter.com)

Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear – Back cover

  • Here, My Dear
  • I Met A Little Girl
  • When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You
  • Anger (Delta Ashby, Marvin Gaye, Ed Townsend)
  • Is That Enough
  • Everybody Needs Love (Ed Townsend, Marvin Gaye)
  • Time To Get It Together
  • Sparrow (Ed Townsend, Marvin Gaye)
  • Anna’s Song
  • When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Instrumental)
  • A Funky Space Reincarnation
  • You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You
  • Falling In Love Again
  • When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Reprise)

Musicians

  • Marvin Gaye – vocals, piano, Rhodes, Roland bass, synthesizer, horns; tape box percussion
  • Charles Owens – tenor saxophone
  • Wali Ali – guitar
  • Gordon Banks – guitar
  • Spencer Bean – guitar on Time to Get It Together
  • Cal Green – guitar on Sparrow
  • Frank Blair – bass
  • Eric Ward – bass on Sparrow
  • Elmira Collins – percussion
  • Ernie Fields, Jr. – alt saxophone
  • Fernando Harkless – tenor saxophone on When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You and Time To Get It Together
  • Gary Jones – conga’s
  • Nolan Andrew Smith – trumpet
  • Bugsy Wilcox – drums
  • Melvin Webb – drums, conga’s, cowbell on When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You and Time To Get It Together
  • Eddie “Bongo” Brown – conga’s, bongo’s on A Funky Space Reincarnation
  • Jack Ashford – percussion on Ain’t It Funny
  • David Stewart – handclaps on A Funky Space Reincarnation
  • Richard “Do Dirty” Bethune – handclaps on A Funky Space Reincarnation
  • Art Stewart – handclaps on A Funky Space Reincarnation
Marvin Gaye at work (twitter.com/motown)

Marvin Gaye at work

Review

And why this article? Here, My Dear is a stunningly intimate album, where Marvin doesn’t hold back. The music is captivating, beautiful and addictive, which is reminiscent of all his 1970’s output. There is no greater compliment to be given, for everything Marvin made in that era was the pinnacle of what (soul)music had to offer.

The music, the lyrics, it is real and perfectly portrays Marvin’s state of mind at the time. Even though the desperation, the sorrow and the loneliness is clearly audible, the subtle music is outstanding. Highly recommended to every soul music lover and to everyone that appreciates raw and sensitive music.

Reactions 2

Nowadays Here, My Dear is valued for what it is: one of the very best albums of all time. The sound of divorce on record, in all its childish, sad, accusing and resigned splendor.

After Here, My Dear

Quickly following the release of Here, My Dear Marvin went into hiding. He was occasionally heard of, but usually that was short lived. His problems with depression and cocaine were never far away. It all culminated on April 1st, 1984, one day prior to Marvin’s 45th birthday. Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his father. The greatest soul singer of all time was no more.

Marvin Gaye was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987. Anna Gordy accepted the award on behalf of Marvin Gaye.

In closing

What do you think of Here, My Dear? Let me know!

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!