Marvin Gaye Songs -
Reviews of His Pride and My Joy

My feelings toward Marvin Gaye songs are more complicated than that headline suggests. (I could say the same about the artist's own relationship to his Motown hits.)

No question, however, that I admire his brand of soul music and want to share my fascination with others.

My Marvin Gaye song reviews appear below.

So let's get on with, you know, it!

Reviews of Marvin Gaye Songs -
"Mercy Mercy Me"

Once, an activist friend of mine lumped Marvin Gaye songs with the bump-and-grind, uh, genre. It's not every day that you can unearth a pro-environment piece to counter such characterizations. So I wish I'd mentioned "Mercy Mercy Me"!

It shouldn't have taken much digging. Occasional radio play had already sown this Marvin Gaye song into my brain. The curious lyrics--"fish full of mercury," "radiation underground"--clued me in to the fact that this was no ordinary piece of classic soul music.

It's not what I'd have expected from a message song, either. It's not a maudlin dirge or bitter screed. Marvin Gaye creates a reverie about the planet's dying beauty, and persuades us to care with his wistfulness, not his anger. He does cite "abuse from man" toward the song's end. By then, though, we've already fallen under his spell.

For me, the thrumming guitars and blocky, pinging percussion that open "Mercy Mercy Me" conjure up a walk on the beach. A brisk one, that is: Marvin Gaye doesn't let us wander from his concerns. During the song's bridge, a saxophone growls assertively, as if to refocus us on nature's muted cries.

Then there's the ending. Instead of dissolving into silence, it shivers with a ghostly, harmonic dissonance. Add that to the faint "sweet Lord" and repeated "mercy" laments throughout the song, and I end up feeling the spiritual gravity of Earth's decay. Of all the Marvin Gaye songs I know, this one haunts me most.

Reviews of Marvin Gaye Songs -
"I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

Question for middle-aged fans: Did any of you think that Marvin Gaye songs like this one would end up as dance music for claymation fruit?

This Marvin Gaye song slithers into the subconscious quite well. The ad-makers made a good choice, musically speaking. A percussive clampdown seemingly shuts a door. The keyboards tiptoe, the drums pound, the tambourine rattles, the guitars twitch, the horns pounce. Sounds like the singer is the one about to take someone by surprise.

He's hurt, he's desperate, but when Marvin Gaye's voice suddenly rises in pitch and volume, so do my neck hairs. He's the cuckold of his lover's rumored affair, yet there's something menacing about this confrontation. Even the backup vocals sound a bit too subdued. It's as if they won't bother to yell at the lover because her guilt, they think, is obvious. Gives me chills for her.

This Marvin Gaye song came after an earlier release by Gladys Knight and the Pips. His and the Funk Brothers' gripping performances helped make this release Motown's definitive "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

Just as Marvin Gaye songs live on, so does the man himself. Click here for my Marvin Gaye bio.

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