Over Marvin Gaye
Perhaps the pervasive element of tragedy that ruled Marvin Gaye's life accounts for the profound intimacy found in his songs. He scored dozens of hits for Motown in the 1960s both as a solo act ("How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine") and singing duets ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). A late-decade period of depression and solitude ended with What's Going On? (1971). That album eschewed the pop frivolity of Gaye's earlier work, grappling with such issues as the Vietnam War, poverty and the ecology. Its success allowed him to create increasingly personal records. Let's Get It On was perhaps the most explicitly sexual album of its era; the double LP Here My Dear recounted the disintegration of his marriage in such detail that his wife considered suing for privacy invasion. Gaye's final chart topper was "Sexual Healing" (1983), a luscious ballad that simmered erotically beneath Gaye's velvet-lined vocals. His unexpected death in 1984 at the hands of his father renewed interest in his life, music and legacy.