Throughout the course of a year, I receive all kinds of compact discs, DVD’s and believe it or not cassette tapes to review. Although the focus of most of these recordings is generally jazz-related; every now and again, someone will send something that is not my main focus. With that being said, I must admit to being taken aback when I received a DVD entitled Marvin Gaye - The Real Thing In Performance - 1964 - 1981 by way of the United States Postal Service. Considered by many to be one of the finest pop and R&B composers/vocalists of his generation, Marvin Gaye was light years ahead of his time. In fact, some twenty-plus years after his death in 1984, his music continues to reverberate across the airwaves of American and international radio stations. Marvin’s name is synonymous with classic love songs and he is definitely a household name by most measurements of familiarity. His fan base is immense and his creativity is legendary, which speaks volumes for his long-standing ability to mesmerize and tantalize generations of music lovers. For more than 40 years, Marvin Gaye moved and grooved audiences with his silky smooth recordings and his cool effervescent stage presence. While viewing Marvin’s DVD, I gained considerable insight about this sometimes troubled individual. Although I am a product of his generation, I never realized the true depth of his genius until now.
No matter what the tabloids or news accounts had to say about Marvin Gaye, his music expressed the things he could not say on a personal level. Marvin Gaye’s The Real Thing In Performance is a beautifully crafted retrospective that reflects back upon his first #1 hit entitled "Hitch Hike" through his years of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough with Tammi Terrell to a song entitled Heavy Love Affair, the last chapter on the DVD. Much of what is seen on the video disc are live interviews/performances on such shows as Dick Clark, Hollywood Palace, Shindig, Dinah Shore and many more, all of which date back to the 1960s and into the '80s. In addition, Marvin Gaye - The Real Thing In Performance features over 70 minutes of classic appearances in re-mastered sound and film clips. Another feature of the DVD collection is a 24-page booklet with a foreword and liner notes by Otis Williams (The Temptations) and author Rob Bowman. The booklet also includes rare photographs and memorabilia chronicling various aspects of Gaye’s professional endeavors. As one examines Marvin Gaye’s impressive career artistically, philosophically and metaphysically, one has to wonder why a genius such as his was so short-lived.
Whenever you reflect upon the truly great singers of an era gone by, vocalists such as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Jerry Butler, Jackie Wilson, Barry White, Curtis Mayfield, Luther Vandross, Otis Redding and David Ruffin come to mind. In retrospect, all of them were powerful R&B influences. But of all the names mentioned and even those not spoken about, there remains only one Marvin Gaye in the annals of artistic impression. His ability to spin a love song; express his dissatisfaction without vilification during politically troubling times is a testament to Marvin’s much-heralded respect as an artist. His level of creativity may not ever be realized, yet he remains an enigma to his fans and a musical legend. By and large, Marvin Gaye - The Real Thing In Performance 1964 - 1981 provides a stage for the entire world to see of a multi-talented singer/songwriter from the beginning of his career with Motown to near finish. Unfortunately, his untimely death just short of his 45th birthday in 1984 interrupted the rest of the story.