Tough times don’t last, tough people do. And in the world of entertainment, where tough times are often the precursor to generational defining records and moments, Marvin Gaye remains the poster child for everything that was, that is and what could’ve been in a career still ringing bells to this very minute. For the record, Marvin was killed exactly 22 months before I was born, yet taking in stories from those who remember his presence in music and their lives as well as my own experiences becoming familiar with his story and music, something remains painfully evident. He was still attempting to discover happiness. Chart topping records were amazing, legendary performances were culture defining, but the look in his eyes always depicted the life of many blessed with God-ordained talent, but human pitfalls.
Towards the end of his life in 1983, Marvin sat down with a then mini-fro sporting Tom Joyner. The near eight minute clip was simple in the fact Joyner’s questions were not terribly in depth, but they afforded for Gaye to explicitly cover the topics at hand. And that’s where the interview excelled. It was profound and eerie at the same time hearing Marv speak about time away from America, love and other topics. In a sea full of quotes worthy enough for posters and T-shirts, four stood out; for me, at least. They reveal a singer, entertainer, father and ex-husband shedding any potential armor his fame built and revealed who he really was – a man attempting to find his place in the world.
1. “I was really broke and things didn’t look too good so I was stuck in this forest. I couldn’t see. And oh yeah, I didn’t tell you, I owed the government four million bucks, too. That’s enough to leave the country. I just wanted everyone to know why I got the hell out of dodge.”
Multiple divorces, contractual differences with Motown, bankruptcy and having his property confiscated by the government left Marvin at the darkest point of his life. With his world crashing down around him, the domino effect of negative offerings provided a perfect launching pad to his self-imposed exile. Imagine if a worldwide superstar fled the country in 2012 because of a situation like this.
2. “I’m broke. That’s the first thing. I’m not particularly fond of money if that’s what you’re asking. It’s not my first prerequisite, you know? One of my great passions are cars and I, um, spend a lot of money on the fairer sex, which gets me into a lot of trouble.”
Don’t ever let a rapper or any male over the age of 25 tell you they’ve never paid for sex. This isn’t meant in the sense you pull up on the corner and buy it outright. Rather, I’m talking more along the lines of a dinner, drink or movie. That type of investment. Because let’s get one thing clear, if Marvin Gaye – the man who made this, this and this – paid for a good time, your favorite celebrity/local dope boy has too. It’s a fact of life.
3. “Love is miserable. Marriage is miserable. And sex is great. Yeah, that’s about right for me right now. No, there is quite a separation between the two as far as I’m concerned. I think that sex is really sex and love is love. If you happen to love the person you’re having sex with, that’s tremendous. I really see a complete separation between the two. They’re totally unrelated.”
Who knew 29 years before Trey Songz’s “Sex Ain’t Better Than Love,” Marvin had his response to the claim right here. The effects of divorce and love not playing its course grew to trouble him deeply. Internal struggles began seeping through his pores as he battled with the true answer. He devised a barrier around him many men and women develop after suffering the ill-effects of love. His defense mechanism was physical pleasure. Love was overrated and he vowed to never place insecurities and emotions on front street ever again. Here’s an artist who crafted handfuls of the greatest lovemaking and companionship ballads the world ever knew and he, the author, was attempting to paint a blank canvas with no brush. Marvin wanted what he sang about. How deep was that?
4. “Being an honest soul, I have to tell you, yes, I was quite close to that point [committing suicide] during my four year hiatus. I was a manic depressant. I was at my lowest ever. I really didn’t feel like I was loved and because I didn’t feel loved, I felt useless.”
You know why people search for love? Money’s man made. Power’s often man-abused. Yet love, in its purest essence, is what we’re all/should be born into. That feeling of knowing someone appreciates you more than you appreciate yourself doesn’t have a dollar sign attached and is beyond words, beyond music, beyond everything. A person can go their entire life without experiencing this. That’s what kept Marvin Gaye up late at night and that’s what Marvin Gaye longed for until the day he died. Happy 73rd birthday to a man whose troubles defined his career as much as his music. And every person whoever listened became a better individual because of it.