Stubborn Kinda Fella: Remembering Marvin Gaye airs Sunday, February 22 at 9 PM on Jazzy 88.9 or tune in at wcsufm.org
Soul legend Marvin Gaye was a writer, producer, vocalist and extraordinary artist. This week the AAPRC presents radio documentary, “Stubborn Kinda Fella: Remembering Marvin Gaye”. The one-hour show is hosted by his lifelong friend and colleague Smokey Robinson, and produced by BBC Producer Sue Clark.
This particular piece is a very personal look into the man and the artist. Marvin Gaye was very complex. Clips from interviews with his younger sister Zeola, wife Janis, record company executives, music critics and promoters intertwine the story of his inner conflict with the making of his music, as if inseparable. They also trace his amazing evolution from background singer at Motown Records, to writer, producer and vocalist with the ability to imprint the culture with his perspectives on social and personal issues — through music.
A maverick, Marvin Gaye fought for Motown to release his landmark album, “What’s Going On”, a social commentary that created an entirely new genre of soul music. A genius in the recording studio, there is no musician alive that does not recognize Marvin as a monument.
This month, the AAPRC offers to public radio stations and audiences, “Stubborn Kinda Fella: Remembering Marvin Gaye”, in tribute to this African-American icon.
I found this article on line after the Grammy’s regarding Sam Smith on the daily beast. Thanks Stereo Williams for your POV. I have to agree. One has to ask why would anyone think he was? Come On GQ!
In the coronation of Sam Smith, we should be mindful of soul music’s rich history. Just singing earnestly about romantic feelings does not constitute ‘soul.’
Celebrated British singer Sam Smith has become one of music’s biggest stars over the past year. His 2014 debut album, In the Lonely Hour, was the third-best selling album in the U.S. last year. He’s become a household name on the strength of monster hits like “I’m Not the Only One” and the inescapable “Stay With Me.” And this month, he’s featured on the cover of GQ magazine, heralded as “The New Face of Soul.”
The decree was met with scoffs from many music fans. On Instagram and Twitter, the declaration was dismissed as preposterous—and it is. If the guy who took home the award for Favorite Male Artist in the Pop/Rock category at the American Music Awards also gets to be crowned the king of soul, does that mean that any adult contemporary singer who performs without choreography can be considered representative of soul music? Cultural appropriation has become an extremely hot-button topic in recent years. With Miley Cyrus becoming the “Twerk Queen” 15 years after the booty-poppin’ dance had become the norm at black nightclubs all over the south and Midwest, and with Iggy Azalea becoming a superstar by mimicking her idea of how black Americans rap, this conversation is absolutely necessary.
Sam Smith as “The New Face of Soul,” seems a bit misplaced—both because of soul music’s history and because of Smith’s music itself. Does In the Lonely Hour evoke Marvin Gaye or Michael Buble? In the GQ interview, Smith revealed a current devotion to the iconic Frank Sinatra and he bemoans the lack of “class and romance” in current pop; one can’t help but feel that the middle-of-the-road is where the young singer’s heart truly lies.
Smith seems to be more of a disciple of ‘50s pop singers than he is soul shouters of any era. The tuxedos-and-cocktails of the Rat Pack era stand in stark contrast to even the more impassioned style of ‘60s singers like Otis Redding and Percy Sledge. The 22-year-old isn’t just a Sinatra fan, obviously, (he references Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige in the same interview), but his presentation certainly seems to be more in line with what Ol’ Blue Eyes represents in the public’s collective consciousness.
Soul music is decidedly bolder, with one foot in a proud tradition and the other planted firmly in a spirit of innovation. Soul singers didn’t just make romantic records—they made revolutionary ones, as well.
Romance was always a part of the sound—as epitomized by artists such as Al Green and The Stylistics—but the spirit of the times was one of sonic variety and creative expression.
Soul music was originally viewed as R&B with the emotional fervor of traditional black gospel, and artists like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and James Brown laid the groundwork for the genre in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. At the beginning of the ‘70s, soul was the dominant voice in black music—and it had come to showcase an unapologetically black perspective. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Curtis Mayfield were crafting topical songs and albums that reflected their feelings on war, urban blight, and drug addiction. Aretha Franklin gave voice to a generation of women seeking to dismantle oppressive traditionalism. Romance was always a part of the sound—as epitomized by artists such as Al Green and The Stylistics—but the spirit of the times was one of sonic variety and creative expression.
In the coronation of Sam Smith, music fans and press should be mindful of soul music’s rich history and recognize that just singing earnestly about romantic feelings does not constitute “soul.” Michael Bolton sold millions of albums performing R&B covers and adult contemporary pop songs, but you would be hard-pressed to find a serious music fan today who considers Bolton’s catalog to be a part of the soul tradition.
With Smith, so much of his music is pristine and clinical; an inoffensive aural salad that doesn’t really trouble itself with taking musical risks or evoking sincerity. That’s not just in comparison to the fiery passion and rueful heartache of Sullivan or the artistically bold stylings of D’angelo—that’s in comparison to virtually any music that you would consider “soul,” past or present. A genre that is known for being spiritual should never be this generic and eager-to-please. Sam Smith is a formidable talent and is rapidly becoming a major star, but maybe calling what he does “soul music” does a disservice to both him and that genre. And the true heirs to the musical thrones of Donny Hathaways and Chaka Khans are hiding in plain sight.
In 1974, Marvin Gaye was coming back into the spotlight in more ways than one. He was embarking on his first tour since the tragic death of his duet partner Tammi Terrell four years earlier. Elsewhere, the singer was making a different kind of debut in the pages of a novel.
Elaine Jesmer, a former press agent who was closely associated with Motown, penned Number One With A Bullet, a trashy novel about the seedy underbelly of the record industry. Its main character, Daniel Stone, bears a striking resemblance to Gaye. Stone is a troubled singer who marries the sister of his boss at Finest Records (sound familiar?). What unfolds is a story of greed, violence and depravity. The similarities didn’t escape Gaye, or Motown.
After the book’s publication, Jesmer was effectively black-balled from the music industry, but she wasn’t surprised.
In a 2010 interview with blogtalkradio’s Stephanie Campbell, Jesmer claims that Gaye unwittingly contributed to the novel.
“He would come and tell stories of something that had just happened and I would be so crazed by listening to this that I would go and write it into the book just as he said it had happened,” she said. Gaye gave his own side of the story in 1981 when Ebony magazine asked him how much of Jesmer’s novel was fact and how much was fiction:
“About 50-50. Elaine Jesmer pretended she was in love with me – or maybe she wasn’t pretending – to extract information out of me so that she could write the book and, er, Daniel Stone [the hero] was supposed to be me. There was a lot of truth in it, but a lot of fiction also. Certainly I’m not an oralist. I’m a dominant sexual partner usually, but she made mention in the book of some sexual activity that is not my character. I’m not a whore; I’m promiscuous, yes, but very selective. That ought to make interesting reading!” Excerpted from http://www.songfacts.com/facts-marvin_gaye.php
Gaye was loyal to Detroit teams and even wanted to become a professional football player with the Lions in 1970 after the death of his singing partner Tammi Terrell left him depressed and confused about his role in the music industry. The singer had never played football before in his life, but he was confident he could become just as big a star on the field as he was in the recording studio. Former Lions cornerback Lem Barney told the LA Times of Coach Joe Schmidt’s first interaction with the newly bulked-up Gaye: “If I could sing like you, I certainly wouldn’t want to play football,” he had said. With the weight of Gaye’s music career also resting on the tryout, Schmidt decided the singer was too much of a liability. The beginning of this video shows Marvin and his father discussing football.
Would-be teammates Barney and running back Mel Farr provided backing vocals on subsequent, politically charged hit “What’s Going On.” http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10503
My own football story starts with living on the lakeshore of Lake Ontario in Mimico, small village in Toronto, Ontario. I was infatuated with football and dreamed about it at night. My dreams included me playing (remember I am a female writing this) and being great at it! We lived in the same building as Toronto Argonaut Dave Mann (David Carl Mann (June 2, 1932 – May 22, 2012) was a professional American-born Canadian punter in the NFL and CFL. Dave used to let me come to his penthouse apartment and play with his three poodles. Sometimes he would invite me to come and have cereal. I was a huge fan of Dave’s and I was given my very own mini football to play with. I found this lovely story about Dave here:
By: Joseph Hall Sports Reporter, Published on Wed May 23 2012
Dave Mann would kick the football so high that it was anyone’s guess when it might come down to earth.“It would take two days to come out of the sky it seemed,” says John Henry Jackson, a former Toronto Argonaut teammate and friend of Mann’s for more than half a century.
“He was the greatest kicker I’ve ever seen.” Mann, who soared in many roles with the Double Blue and was voted to the “All-Time Argos” team in 2005, died Tuesday in a Toronto nursing home at 79. He is being mourned by the likes of comedian and television star Bill Cosby, who became friends with Mann during his days a soul food restaurateur in Toronto in the 1970s.
Cosby has expressed interest in performing a benefit for Mann’s family later this year, says Jackson, who partnered with his former teammate in opening the venerable Underground Railroad restaurant in 1969.
The Underground Railroad was the only soul food restaurant in Toronto and was very successful. Dave and his partners put their names in cement at the second location for the restaurant and they are still there. The location was most recently a fantastic furniture store but their lease ended and it will soon become another condo or something.
Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have-nots
Money, we make it ’
For we see it, you’ll take it
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’
No, no baby, this ain’t livin’ No, no, no, no
Inflation, no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up, sky high
Send that boy off to die
Oh, make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler The way they do my life, oh baby
Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is Honey,
that I can’t pay my taxes
Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Yea, it makes me wanna holler And throw up both my hands
Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing
Panic is spreading
God knows where,
where we’re heading
Oh, they don’t understand
Make me wanna holler
They don’t understand
God bless you And Lord keep you
And may you live, live, live a good life
God bless you
Lord keep you
And may you live, live, live a long long sweet life
Don’t let the things get you down
Hold your hands, baby, walk around
Say God bless you
And I’ll keep you
I’m praying a prayer for each and everyone of you
Heaven bless you Heaven keep you
Songwriters GAYE, MARVIN P/NYX, JAMES /
Published by Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
I recently was watching television and saw concert footage of Ben Harper cover Marvin’s Inner City Blues – Makes Me Wanna Holler. While I was watching, I was wondering if Ben’s fans knew that this song is one of Marvin’s masterpieces.
After singing Motown love songs, Marvin took control of his career and began writing and performing songs with a more socially conscious message. In the early 1970’s life was rough with people living in poverty in the ghettos of America. Back then and being in Toronto, I never understood why ghettos existed in American cities but I now recognize that with increased racialization, people under-housed, and under-employment we will see a rise of concentrated poverty everywhere on earth.
There used to be manufacturing jobs available post WWII in the USA where a man or a woman could work to have money to raise their families. The manufacturing jobs withered away as we live more and more in a digital world and manufacturing moved to where labour is cheaper. Ghettos are not necessarily African American, African Canadian, or Hispanic but are places where people are isolated by their physical features, culture, health, faith and even age.
I was in Boston a few years ago to attend an African American film festival called the Roxbury Film Festival with a colleague, unaware that Roxbury is an area of ostracized, underemployed, disabled, elderly as well as poor, hidden away from the glossy shopping areas of downtown Boston. We had spent most of our time attending screenings in many of the city’s university screening rooms and did not see Roxbury until our last day when we attended a breakfast at the Community Center. We wondered why a wealthy city like Boston does not spend time and money to help the forgotten people living there. Ghettos are hard to leave if you live in one. People need help.
Thanks to Marvin fan – Canale di funkCinI for uploading and making video to go with it.
Marvin Gaye co-wrote the hits “Beachwood 4-5789” for the Marvelettes and “Dancing In The Streets” for Martha and the Vandellas.
Motown founder Berry Gordy often called Gaye, “The truest artist I’ve ever known.” In a 1994 interview with Harvey Kubernik, he added, “Whatever he was going through in his life he put on records. So if you want to know Marvin just listen to one of his records.”
Gordy should know. As Gaye’s boss at Tamla/Motown, as his brother-in-law (through his sister, Anna Gordy) and as his friend, Gordy had a complex and sometimes tumultuous relationship with Gaye throughout the singer’s entire career. He elaborated in a Wall Street Journal interview:
“It never mattered what people said about us on the outside. People who wrote articles and books got everything wrong all the time. According to them, Marvin and I were supposed to be the biggest enemies, that we were fighting all the time and that I was doing this and that to him. But within our company and within us, it was different.”
Motown founder Berry Gordy has called Marvin Gaye’s 1971 protest album, What’s Going On, “the most prestigious record” the label ever released. Gordy was not so optimistic when he first got wind of Gaye’s project years earlier. He thought it was another one of the singer’s crazy schemes, like when he wanted to become a boxer or a professional football player. The making of the What’s Going On album has become the stuff of legend with Gordy as the villain trying to block its release and Gaye as the hero threatening to never record with Motown again unless he relented.
Gordy admits it took him awhile to accept the idea but claims the stories are false. He told the Wall Street Journal in 2011, “Once he told me he wanted to awaken the minds of mankind, and I could see in his eyes how serious he was, I had to let him do it.” He later added. “I thought those records would ruin him. Instead, they made him an icon.”
While looking for images for CHUM Radio I found out that Canadian radio station CKLW from Windsor (right across the river from Detroit) made the Motown label popular. It is best known for having been one of the most influential Top 40 stations in the world in the 1960s and 1970s.
Rosalie Trombley, CKLW’s Music Director during the station’s ‘60s and ‘70s heyday, picked the songs that aired on the station’s Top 40 format, automatically gave those tunes instant hit status because of the station’s massive reach over several states and much of Southern Ontario.
Fred Sorrell, CKLW’s General Manager from 1969 to 1972, said Trombley’s major contribution was exposing Motown artists to a largely white audience. He told the Windsor Star that “it was through Rosalie that Motown was heard in places in the U.S. south where radio programmers wouldn’t play it.” For no other reason than that, he said, she should go into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. http://www.broadcasting-history.ca
Glory years CKLW
The station did well thanks to its huge signal, and beat the local competition in Cleveland, Ohio, though in the local Detroit ratings CKLW still lagged well behind competing hit outlet WKNR. In July 1967, CKLW claimed the number one spot in the Detroit ratings for the first time, and WKNR was left in the dust, switching to an easy listening format.
The station had strong talent behind the scenes as well, most notably longtime music director Rosalie Trombley, who ascended to that position in 1968 after having worked as the station’s music librarian for five years and became famous for her apparent hit record-spotting abilities. Trombley consciously made an effort to choose the right R&B and soul songs (especially Motown product) to create a station that would appeal equally to black and white listeners. As a result, CKLW was sometimes referred to as “the blackest white station in America”, and many believe the integrated music mix helped bring Detroiters closer together in racial harmony, especially after the riots of July 1967. For many younger listeners by 1978, CKLW was the station they listened to only if they had an AM-only radio in their cars.
The Windsor-based station maintained a sales office in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Michigan, where it picked up numerous sponsors for U.S. consumer products, some of which had to use the disclaimer and live announcer end-tag “Not available in Ontario”. CKLW Station Identifications circa 60’s 70’s
CKLW’s newscasts were acknowledged for more than just their “flash,” however—the station won an Edward R. Murrow Award for its coverage of the 1967 riots, helmed by Dick Smyth. This was the first time that this particular award had ever been given to a Canadian broadcaster. With the Canadian government introducing Canadian content regulations and new format “album play” FM stations, CKLW slowly met it demise and became an easy listening station and now known as CKLW — The Information Station
Found this great doc on BBC4 – If you live in the UK you may be able to watch it http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0074rql
Duration: 1 hour
What’s Going On: the Life and Death of Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye is one of the great and enduring figures of soul music, but his life was one of sexual confusion, bittersweet success and ultimately death by the hand of his own father. Through Marvin’s own words and intimate memories gathered from rare film and recordings, director Jeremy Marre tells the story of a ‘life of outer grace and inner torment’.
Including interviews with the singer’s family, friends and musical colleagues, with re-enactments and archive film of Marvin on stage, at home and in the recording studio.
Nick De Grunwald