Marvin Gaye’s “Lost” Album Reminds Us of His Legacy
By Anahi Anaya
Marvin Gaye, the “Prince of Soul,” was an American singer, songwriter, and record producer that made award-winning music. He changed the sounds of Motown in the 1960s, but has influenced the music industry and remained in the hearts of music lovers for decades. His posthumous album “You’re the Man” was released on Mar. 29, an astonishing 47 years after it was recorded in 1972 and only a couple of days before what would have been Gaye’s 80th birthday. This album is a follow-up to Gaye’s first album, “What’s Going On,” and is best recognized as his “lost” album. It is not only a reminder of Gaye’s contributions to the music world, but it introduces listeners to important themes that can still apply to today’s society.
The album has a total of 17 songs, each of which is charged with political and social messages. The track begins with “You’re the Man,” which is straightforward with its lyrics which are directed toward both the president and the struggling economy. The song questions taxation, inflation, and systematic corruption while unleashing upbeat and jazzy rhythms. It is followed by “The World is Rated X,” which touches on the world’s crime and injustice. The themes begin to shift in the following pieces. In “Piece of Clay,” Gaye sings about changing oneself to fit society’s expectations, molding one’s identity to be accepted. In “Where Are We Going?” the future is questioned and a lack of understanding on one’s purpose reflects Gaye’s known struggles with depression.
Followed by these serious tracks are more romantic pieces, starting with “I’m Gonna Give You Respect.” The song investigates fidelity and understanding in a relationship, as well as maintaining and building mutual trust and respect. The artist’s failed relationships have led him to mature in terms of love and he is determined to make his new love work. In “Try it, You’ll Like it,” Gaye sings about the world loving and accepting each other. Gaye talks about his love interest in “You Are That Special One” and describes his feelings for her, as he thinks she is special and the one for him. These romantic feelings also translate to the next song, “We Can Make it Baby,” where he talks about a couple getting through tough times, as love and unity is all they need.
Salaam Remi, an American record producer, has made remixes of three of Gaye’s pieces. They are featured on the album. The first is “My Last Chance,” which describes a shy man’s feelings and his desire to dance with his love interest. Following is “Symphony,” which is used to talk about the perfect woman and being with her in the moment. This is followed by “I’d Give My Life For You,” a piece that shows a deeper and more meaningful love, where Gaye would be willing to risk it all for her. Remi uses an array of R&B beats to make these romantic songs more upbeat, which remains consistent with Gaye’s desire to make new kinds of sounds. Although the lyrics juxtapose the beat, they create unity, Gaye’s trademark.
After these remixed pieces, the tracklist includes “Woman of the World,” a piece that brings up both political and romantic themes. It is followed by “Christmas in the City,” an instrumental piece that is a perfect mix of psychedelic, soul, and R&B. Gaye works with these three music genres multiple times, but they all come together in this single piece to create a new sound. Following this track is an alternate version of “You’re the Man,” and then an alternate mix of “I Want to Come Home for Christmas,” a holiday piece that stands out amongst its predecessors for its inclusion of less joly lyrics and themes, including war and isolation. The second to last piece is “I’m Going Home (Move),” which talks about finding sanctuary in one’s family home when the world has only been cruel. It is a mix of funk and soul, inspired by sounds from multiple artist, including Jimi Hendrix and Isaac Hayes. “Checking Out (Double Clutch)” concludes the album and is popular for having been released on the 40th anniversary of “What’s Going On,” where Marvin performs with other Motown artists, like Bohannon, who is referenced in the piece.
Marvin Gaye’s “lost” album was set during the 1972 presidential election. Motown’s CEO, Berry Gordy, refused to promote this album and Gaye’s controversial pieces for fear of the community’s reactions, especially conservatives. Gaye had to scrap the project and move on to other ones that were really successful, including the “Trouble Man” soundtrack and one of Gaye’s most famous hits, “Let’s Get it On.” The deluxe edition of “Let’s Get it On” included much of this album’s content, but the release of this album is still fundamental to Gaye’s political significance. “You’re the Man” is Gaye’s fourth posthumous album. It includes pieces that challenge conservative norms and expose Richard Nixon as a bad leader, making for great debate and discussions in the current time, especially with all the political strife. Even if it was recorded decades ago, the material remains relevant to political discussions today, qualifying it as a great success.