Listening to a recounting of Marvin Gaye’s life reminds me of a YouTube video I made the mistake of watching one recent eve right before turning in for the night.
Various jumbo jet crashes was the theme of this particular uplifting bit of viewing (ironic pun not intended, but boy does it fit), and let’s just say the 10 minutes of watching giant airplanes with people in them falling from the sky did not lead to a long winter’s nap.
That’s kinda my overall reaction to the Marvin Gaye saga, of which I was reminded while listening to the Marvin Gaye episode of Let It Roll.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know at least the basic details about Marvin’s life, music and tragic death. If you don’t, listen to the podcast first.
You will hear much of what I heard the time a friend read David Ritz’s 1985 biography of Gaye, a veritable litany of suffering every bit the equal to poor Marvin’s prodigy of musical greatness.
And just as I would argue (if anyone disagreed) that nobody had it worse, I’m pert near sure no one ever did it better.
My friend could not resist yelling me some of the nightmarish details, which is probably why I never read the bio myself.
It’s Greek tragedy, Shakespearean drama and Biblical prophecy all rolled into one, marching most any tale, mythical or true,
But his life was as spectacularly troubled as his artistic output was
Apparently Marvin himself prophesied the worst of it, or was this a prophesy self-fulfilled?
So were the agonies he put himself through. The story is full of agony and ain’t just one jumbo jet going down here—it’s a veritable fleet of them, coming right off the assembly line at the Boeing factory and making a beeline towards Mt. Rainer.
Yeah, it’s that bad—and, at least in part, why Marvin’s creative output was so great.
There was no “off” position on that genius switch, but neither were there many other “off” positions on other switches.
And why I doubt I’ll ever read David Ritz’s biography about Gaye. I also won’t be going overboard on the reading list when the 9/11 20th-Anniversary remembrance commences in about a month, and why I’ve probably read all I need to about the Altamont tragedy.
All of ‘em, awful, tragic and — while we can debate the inevitability of it — needless from the standpoint that pain is inevitable but self-inflicted suffering is optional.
And that is where the Marvin Gaye saga reminds me all that other apocalyptic stuff. Yeah, some of it — his dad’s issues, his upbringing --was baked into the cake, but at some point Marvin took what was bad and made it worse all by his lonesome.
Once the fan is turned on and the shit is heading toward it, the kids start showing up at Altamont Speedway and the planes have been hijacked...
Which brings me to Marvin and the sad state of affairs that brought him to a needless and tragic end.
But as usual the devil is in the details, and the details suck.
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.