Marvin Gaye — Here, My Dear
Qobuz catalog review, July 2021
For nearly half a century, Marvin Gaye has had the final word on the dissolution of his marriage to Anna Gordy in the form of his album Here, My Dear. Famously recorded as part of their divorce settlement — Gaye, being pretty bad with money, had to offer up half the advance and all the royalties from an upcoming album in lieu of a cash alimony payment — Here, My Dear captures the sadness, confusion, and anger swirling around the end of a 14-year marriage. It only captures Marvin Gaye’s perspective on those emotions, and while yes, there are always two sides to every story, the case that Marvin presents here is, frankly, kind of bogus. Spread out over two vinyl albums, the songs of Here, My Dear draped their protagonist in a blanket of self-pity, justification, and recrimination with little evidence of any acceptance of his responsibility for the end of the marriage. Gaye’s self-centered approach to the lyrics is deeply problematic and sadly misogynist, casting Anna Gordy Gaye as a kind of gold-digging opportunist who somehow managed to fall out of love with the man who explicitly sought out a relationship with her due to her proximity to Motown’s power centers, blew most of their money on drugs and whatever else struck his fancy, and was repeatedly unfaithful throughout their marriage, including a relationship with an underage Janis Hunter (whom he would marry immediately upon divorcing Anna Gordy) while recording Let’s Get it On. Needless to say, casting Here, My Dear as Gaye’s woe-is-me divorce album is selling the reality of the situation short. However, the relative musical freedom he clearly felt in crafting the album — after all, he surely was ambivalent at best about its sales potential — absolutely resulted in what was the artist’s last masterwork.
Possessed of an atmosphere that amplifies the more ethereal tendencies of Let’s Get it On’s spacious grooves, Here, My Dear is nearly gossamer in its production, with instruments and vocals floating in and out of the mix, all barely anchored by a recurring theme (“When Did You Stop Loving Me”) that not only shows up in three similarly titled tracks, but also in melody lines and musical refrains that emerge and retreat throughout. Locked into a mid tempo groove from the very first track, the album seamlessly blends together, especially in the first half. The second half proves fertile ground for Gaye’s experimental nature. While maintaining the vibe (and self-pity) of the opening half “Sparrow” begins gently and mournful and turns acidly bitter with gritty, wailing saxophone and hissed lyrics, and then goes even darker and weirder than its already dark and weird predecessors. Even in a career full of weirdo lyrics and deceptively left-field grooves, “Funky Space Reincarnation” stands out for its combination of lasciviousness (“Hey, baby, let’s mess around; Let’s feel each other’s ass”) and looniness (“Hey little baby, let’s magnetize magnets!”). By the time the album winds down with the theoretically optimistic “Falling In Love Again” (about Gaye’s relationship with Janis) and a brief, haunting reprise of “When Did You Stop Loving Me” (worth noting: Marvin and Janis Gaye separated less than a year after the release of Here, My Dear ), it’s clear that this album is less a document of a divorce than it is a cathartic exposition of one man’s incredibly unhealthy approach to relationships. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz