Music

Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear

Gaye put his frustrations and anger into one of the most painfully intimate song cycles in musical history and then released it to the public, creating a time-delayed classic.


Marvin Gaye

Here, My Dear

Subtitle: (Expanded Edition)
Label: Hip-O Select
US Release Date: 2008-01-15
UK Release Date: 2008-02-04
Amazon
iTunes

It’s amazing how much music has been made about breakups. Hell, one could even make a list of complete albums that were inspired by the end of a love affair: Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights, Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, and so on. However, there are very few breakup-inspired albums I can think of with a backstory like Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear. Due both to its music and its history, this album was relatively ignored upon initial release, but its legend has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and it’s now widely recognized as the soul classic that it is. Hip-O Select’s recent reissue of the album adds a second disc of interesting remixes/revisions that doesn’t add a hell of a lot to the quality of the original album, but serves as a cool addendum to a record that any soul fan should own.

In 1976, Gaye and his then-wife Anna Gordy (the sister of Motown founder and CEO Berry) decided to split after a twelve year marriage. As part of the divorce settlement, the soul singer was ordered to give a portion of the advance money and royalties from this album to his ex-wife. Feeling a bit burned by the whole ordeal, Gaye went on to put his frustrations and anger into one of the most painfully intimate song cycles in musical history and then release it to the public. Think of it as an open letter to Anna -- one that would be read (or heard, as it were) by Marvin’s entire fan base.

Anyone who has felt the effects of a divorce will be familiar with the emotions explored on this album: while it certainly has its share of bitterness and spitefulness, there are also moments of dry humor, as well as a certain warmth. Obviously, there’s still some love involved if Marvin & Anna were together for 12 years. From a musical standpoint, this album is largely midtempo funk, with elements of traditional soul, gospel, and doo-wop mixed together with a slight hint of disco (after all, this was the late '70s). In other words, it’s musically similar to any of Marvin’s albums during his stellar run during the '70s.

Nothing on Here, My Dear is particularly radio friendly (probably one of the reasons Motown had trouble promoting this record), but despite that -- or maybe even because of it -- it’s a totally engrossing listen. From the call-and-response (gospel-style) of the swaying "I Met a Little Girl" (on which Marvin somewhat randomly shouts out "1964!" and "1976!" -- the years the couple met and split, respectively -- sounding like a funky carnival barker) to the shuffling dance groove of the foreboding "You Can Leave, But It's Going to Cost You" to the sarcastic title track, it's all top-shelf stuff. Not to mention the fact that the band he assembled for the album is on fire throughout. Was there any soul album released in the 1970s that didn’t have superior musicianship?

Along the way, Marvin complains about everything from not being allowed to see his son (on the title track) to having to pay his ex-wife alimony (on the darkly humorous "Is That Enough", where he whines "What was I supposed to do? / The judge says that she's got to live the way she's accustomed to!") Not to say that Marvin was only taking his frustrations out on his ex. Songs like "Anger" and "Time to Get It Together" find the singer looking inward, facing the knowledge that he has to do some work on himself before he can move forward with his life. The latter song is the more intriguing of the two, with a chugging, danceable groove and lyrics that are recited almost mantra-like: "Blowin' coke all up my nose / Gettin' in and out my clothes / Foolin' round with midnight hoes / But that chapter of my life's closed" (see, folks were using the word "ho" long before hip-hop or Imus). You can hear how hard he's struggling to get himself together, and songs like this are even more plaintive in light of Marvin's 1984 murder.

The 2008 reissue was obviously put together with a great deal of love. Disc one is the original album, along with one bonus track. "Ain't It Funny (How Things Turn Around)" is a bouncy tune (left off the original album, but included on one of Marvin’s posthumous works) that takes a more optimistic point of view than the rest of the album. Meanwhile, the second disc (subtitled Hear, My Dear) finds some of today's most adventurous hip-hop and R&B producers (Easy Mo Bee, Prince Paul, jazz bassist Marcus Miller, The Roots' ?uestlove) reworking the album's songs -- with a twist. The producers were not allowed to overdub or sample, and were only allowed to work from the album's original source tapes. So, thankfully, you won't find any guest emcees or space-age beats infiltrating this classic album. These remixes serve as slight reworkings or expansions on the original grooves. Some ("Is That Enough" and "Anna's Song") are turned into vibey, head-nodding instrumentals. Some ("Time to Get It Together" and "You Can Leave...") are punched-up slightly in the funk department, while others ("I Met a Little Girl", "Everybody Needs Love") are tuned down, with minimal musical backing and Gaye's plaintive vocals way in front of the mix. Less of a "remix" album per se, this second disc just allows the listener to hear the songs in a somewhat different context.

As albums become less and less concept-oriented over time, albums like Here, My Dear stick out even more. It was obviously made in the spirit of true artistic expression and not to reach the masses via a catchy hit single. It's definitely not an easy listen -- you will have to pay attention if you want to enjoy it -- but it might just be the second-best Marvin Gaye of all time (and from What's Going On until his death, he didn't record a bad one). If you're a fan of soul music, a fan of Marvin Gaye, or even if you're going through a divorce yourself and need something to relate to, you absolutely can't go wrong with Here, My Dear -- an album whose appreciation finally seems to be catching up to it’s quality.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.