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
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.
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.”
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.
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”.
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.
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.
In the hierarchy of emotional states the condition known as sour grapes occupies a lowly place, somewhere below regret and just above outright vindictiveness. Yet this niggardly emotion, which lacks any but the flimsiest vestige of nobility, has been responsible for some of the most golden moments in recent popular music. Several of Elvis Costello’s love songs come to mind, and much of the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls”, and most recently an extraordinary two-record set from Marvin Gaye, “Here, My Dear”. Mr. Gaye’s album, a long rumination on the end of his marriage, goes further than its predecessors. It complains bitterly about the terms of the divorce settlement, it addresses the departed spouse by name, and it flaunts the macho self-pabsorption that must have had something to do with the marriage’s faltering in the first place. The title is to be taken literally; Mr. Gaye is presenting the album to his ex-wife, since he has filed for bankruptcy and she will presumably be collecting royalties from it before he does. (Though curiously enough, no publisher is listed for any of the original songs on the album.)
Mr. Gaye’s recent troubles have been widely publicized, and an album as apparently self-serving as “Here, My Dear” would seem to play right into the hands of his critics, who have always suspected him of being a goodtime Charlie with pretensions. Even among his staunchest fans his reputation has suffered from uneven work and long periods of Vence; clearly this is the album that should make or break him, in more ways than one. And in spite of the tone of self-justification that runs through the album, Mr. Gaye has produced something extraordinary. True, “Here, My Dear” may not become a commercial blockbuster, but only because it is too rich, too demanding. At its best it is something much more valuable than potential platinum. It is an inventory of the whole expressive range of black popular music at the end of the 70’s, a testing of limits, and an affirmation of musical values. It is Mr. Gaye’s personal statement, for he composed, arranged, and produced it, of his own musical possibilities. It is flawed, but much of it is simply brilliant.
Some listeners and critics may have trouble equating self-indulgence with innovation and excellence. It is useful to remember that much of the greatest black popular music has been a triumph of what critics call manner over what they call matter. Some of the finest blues recordings – the most rhythmically incisive, the most movingly sung, the most resonant in cultural meanings — used shopworn texts and double-entendret and celebrated the singer’s sexual prowess in the most vainglorious terms. Billie Holiday frequently worked her vocal magic on Tin Pan Alley confections that were almost entirely devoid of redeeming value on their own. Mr. Gaye’s “Here, My Dear” has something to do with both these situations. When the lyrics are trite, one tends to forgive it because the music and singing are superb. And even though self-serving recrimination seems to be a shallow value, it does have the virtue of honesty. How many people have felt the way Mr. Gaye seems to have felt after being spurned by a lover? And how many have been able to turn those feelings into two records full of striking music?
“Here, My Dear” is a unified piece of work, a concept album, and it succeeds on several levels. The grouping of the songs has a loose narrative direction; played through from beginning to end the album purports to tell the story of Mr. Gaye’s marriage and divorce. But most of the songs describe feelings or fantasies rather than specific events or situations. The album needs more than Mr. Gaye’s often sketchy lyrics to work as a narrative; it works because the music has narrative qualities, “I Met a Little Girl”, the first real song on the record, is pure, sweet 1950’s streetcorner music, vocal harmonies bass pattern and all. The next tune, “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You”, which, in various guises throughout the album, is a soul samba, and is more than faintly reminiscent of the idiom of some of Mr. Gaye’s mid-60’s Motown hits. The song “Sparrow”, on side 3, is loose-jointed jazz, and “Anna’s Song”, which follows it, has the kind of 6/8 rhythmic pioneered by John Coltrane and Elvin Jones. On side 4, “A Funky Space Reincarnation” is disco, and “You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You” is a kind of trance music, with insistent rhythms and an intricate vocal arrangement that recalls Central Africar choral singing.
Mr. Gaye’s use of instrumental and vocal layering to achieve specific effects — claustrophobia in “When Did You Stop Loving Me”, warmth and intimacy in “Everybody Needs Love” — is an idea he explored on his landmark concept album “What’s Going On” in the early 70’s, an idea he never really followed through on until now. The very free use of saxophone obligatos recalls that earlier album, too, but there are significant new developments. “Sparrow” begins with a little electric piano bird song motif, and for the first half of the tune the saxophone obligato is liquid and mellow. But then the thrust of the lyrics changes, the emotional climate heats up, and after a break consisting of some block chords scored for brass, the saxophone and Mr. Gaye’s voice reappear in a more intense frame of mind. The saxophone screams, Mr. Gaye affects a hoarse, broken vocal timbre, their two lines intersect, break apart, and approach once again in a fascinating, suspenseful dance.
These are some of the album’s unqualified successes. There are instances of musical self-indulgence, too, like the second repeat of “When Did You Stop Loving Me”, with sounds suspiciously like filler. But imperfect as it is, “Here, My Dear” is the most intriguing piece of black popular music on record in some time. It boasts no immediately catchy tunes, no snappy, mindless boogies. Instead, it has something of the rhythmic and harmonic variety of good jazz, consistently creative arrangements, the appeal of an open, emotional declaration, and one committed, wonderfully musical vocal performance after another. If it does not extricate Mr. Gaye from his present difficulties, it is at least a noble attempt, for no matter how sour these grapes may seem, the juice is sweet.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
All songs written by Marvin Gaye, unless stated otherwise.
- 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)
- 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
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.
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.
What do you think of Here, My Dear? Let me know!
Marvin Gaye Live 1974 image: udiscovermusic.com
Marvin Gaye & Anna Gordy image: pinterest.com
Marvin Gaye & Janis Hunter image: culturehash.com
Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear, Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear – Gatefold and Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear – Back cover images: twitter.com
New York Times – Logo image: millennialmindedpodcast.com
Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear – Ad image: ebay.com
Marvin Gaye – A Funky Space Reincarnation – Maxi Single – The Netherlands image: rockers.de
Marvin Gaye at work image: twitter.com/motown