The Art Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye

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May, 2004 | Mercy, Mercy, Me: The Art Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye. Twenty years after Marvin Gaye's death by his father's hand, we are still talking about him and still inspired by his music. He is very much a part of our lives.

As a commemoration of his life and death, Professor Michael Eric Dyson offers up this "biocriticism" dividing Gaye's life into three dimensions: his art, his loves and his demons.For those of us who are unfamiliar with Gaye's life, this book will only heighten our sense of loss.  To know more about Marvin Gaye will not ease the pain of separation.

While Dyson brings to light the fractured and dysfunctional relationship between Gaye and his father, which ultimately resulted in Gaye's death, he also offers up a feast of remembrances and recollections that illuminate the genius of Marvin Gaye.

We are given a behind-the-scenes look at the man, the music and Motown by icons such as Leon Ware, Kim Weston, Johnny Bristol and Martha Reeves.

Dyson examines the effect of Marvin Gaye's music on the socio-political climate of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Each decade of Gaye's music was a direct reflection of where he was at that point in his life. During the sixties, his music reflected his doo-wop roots and his ability to cross over to mainstream audiences.

It was also the time of his duets with Tammi Terrell, who collapsed onstage in his arms and eventually died of a brain tumor.

The seventies saw Gaye's music take a social and political turn with hits like "What's Going On," "Inner City Blues" while moving into the eighties with more personal and sexual songs like "You Sure Love to Ball" and "Sexual Healing."

Dyson attempts to unravel the mysteries of Gaye's loves and passions for Anna Gordy and Janice Hunter, his two wives and his reputed romantic relationship with Tammi Terrell.

He also reveals that Marvin Gaye fathered a son with his wife's 15 year old cousin.

This book goes a long way to satisfy our need to understand the man who continues to influence contemporary musical artists and whose musical legacy can never be erased. Still, it leaves us wanting more.


Review written by Dorothy Ferebee for the Powerhouse Radio Newsletter, May, 2004. Dorothy is the author of the book How To Create Your Own African American Library.

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