This blog is going to explore electronic music through the song, Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. I would take a chance in saying that most people over the age of ten have heard Marvin Gaye’s music, and anyone who loves good music knows it very well. I just didn’t know much about his story after the What’s Going On era. I learned that after a couple of failed marriages, he was left with financial woes and drug problems. So In 1981, with tax problems and pressures from the IRS, he chose to flee to Europe. During this time his relationship with Motown was severed and he signed with Columbia Records. The result of this collaboration was the album Midnight Love, with the massively popular hit Sexual Healing. The story is that author David Ritz was visiting Gaye in Belgium when he came across a pornographic magazine and he quipped that the singer needed “sexual healing”, and the rest is history. To me, this song is in keeping with the Marvin Gaye avant-garde style. This was cemented in my mind when I learned that, because he couldn’t get the feel he wanted from anyone else playing it, he played all of the music himself. The song begins with a very distinctive Trip Hop sounding beat and Marvin Gaye loudly whispering “Wake up” over and over again. Then the synth bass drops in and a “chunk” sounding guitar begins to play. It’s obvious that he used lots of synth sounds in this production and a there were a lot of loops used in various parts of the song. I also heard an electric piano way down in the mix and a lot of reverb was in it too. Sexual Healing won a Grammy in 1982 for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. I thought it was great that the instrumental version also won for Best R&B Instrumental, because that track is awesome. (I love Trip Hop!)
DJ Max-A-Million did a remix of this song in 1995 that became very popular in dance clubs. Check out the video:
To contrast this song, I am going to go to the other end of the spectrum musically with the MTV unplugged version of This Woman’s Work by Maxwell. For those who may not know, the unplugged version of a song is a good way to hear what a band or solo artist really sound like. The music is generally stripped down and doesn’t have added synth work or production and neither do the vocals.
I must admit that I had only heard a very nice rendition of this song on American idol and didn’t know anything about it. I learned that it was written and released, in 1989, for a John Hughes film titled, She’s Having A Baby, by artist Kate Bush.
Maxwell is known as a pioneering Neo Soul artist, but he his also simply a great singer. Maxwell performed this rendition for MTV Unplugged and it was released in1997. I think that him agreeing to do this for MTV was very calculated on his part, because he rode the success of the EP version of this song and then released it on his own album in 2001. This recording is beautiful. When it begins and the notes are being played and he is doing the “A ha’s” it perfectly sets the song up. The simple chords behind the vocal are perfectly placed and his voice sounds superb. The song was written about a man dealing with a wife, who is suffering through a hard pregnancy and he is looking back at their life together and reminiscing about all the “If I, Could a, Should a, Would a” moments that he dropped the ball during their relationship. The song depicts his pain as he realizes that she may die and leave him with all of those regrets. Maxwell’s voice pleads with those lamentations and regrets throughout the entire song. By the time he gets to the end of the song and sings these words:
I should be cryin’ but I just can’t let it show baby
I should be hopin’ but I can’t stop thinkin
All the things we should’ve said that we never said
All the things we should’ve done that we never do
All the things that you wanted from me
All the things that you needed from me
All the things we should’ve given, but I didn’t
Oh darlin’, make it go away now.
Just make it go away.
You believe him and you are totally in the Maxwell web. The simplicity of the song and the slow moving way he sings it, is like experiencing a great artist painting a great masterpiece.
Ankeny, J. (n.d.). Biography: Marvin Gaye. Allmusic.com. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/marvin-gaye-mn0000316834/biography
Hogan, E. (n.d.). Song Review: Sexual Healing. Allmusic.com. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/song/sexual-healing-mt0005469951
Songfacts: Sexual Healing. Retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1713
Unplugged Definition, Retrieved from https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=what+does+unplugged+mean+in+music%3F&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002
Huey, s. (n.d.). Biography: Maxwell. Allmusic.com. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/maxwell-mn0000866491/biography
Erlewine, S. (n.d.). Maxwell MTV Unplugged. Allmusic.com. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/album/mtv-unplugged-mw0000542616
Songfacts: This Woman’s Work. Retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3852
Carson, D. November 19, 2014. SoulTrain.com. Retrieved from http://soultrain.com/2014/11/19/neo-soul-music-still-exist/