Diasporic Music spotlights Marvin Gaye

 
I said I wasn’t going to write another article like this.
 
I was wrong. Dead wrong!
 
After reading that Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ has now surpassed Toronto’s own Deborah Cox and R. Kelly on the R&B/ Hip-Hop charts however, I wigged out.
 
As Sonny Boy Williamson would say, we’re still fattening frogs for snakes.
 
“With a 16th week at No. 1, the song logs the longest reign since Nielsen data began powering the chart in 1992, passing Mary J. Blige’s 15-week leader ‘Be Without You,’” said the September 25, 2013 issue of Billboard magazine.
 
In 1998, when Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” dethroned R. Kelly’s 1994 smash “Bump N’ Grind,” I was, as Stevie Wonder once sang, “Overjoyed.”
 
According to the right-wing New York Daily News, Gaye’s children, Nona Marvisa Gaye and Frankie Christian Gaye have settled claims against a music company owned by Sony over “Blurred Lines.”
 
A Los Angeles judge granted Gaye’s dismissal of their lawsuit against EMI, which is owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
 
Documents say the Gayes and Sony have an agreement and claims against Sony can’t be brought again. A representative for the Gaye family said the terms of the settlement were confidential.
 
Dueling lawsuits between the Gaye family and Thicke remain active.
 
The first time I heard “Blurred Lines” my mind took me back to the Los Angeles Coliseum.
 
It was May 26, 1979 and 100,000 people packed the Coliseum to see Parliament/Funkadelic, The Isley Brothers, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Brothers Johnson, Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn and Rose Royce.
 
During the breaks between performances by the artists, recorded music was played.
 
James Brown’s “Too Funky in Here” brought the crowd of 100,000 to their feet.
 
Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” not only got the crowd on their feet, it received a STANDING OVATION.
 
This was the first and last time I saw a recording do this to a crowd of human beings.
 
Backstage at the concert
 
I went to the concert with Daar Malik El-Bey (slave name Rhongea Southern).
 
El-Bey and I had gone to Washington High School and Los Angeles City College together.
 
We sang in a vocal group with Sigidi Abdullah and Harold Clayton. We also had auditioned for Marvin Gaye and Harvey Fuqua when we were fresh out of high school.
 
Abdullah, with help from El- Bey and Clayton, went on to produce and write the S.O.S. Band’s “Take Your Time (Do It Right).”
 
I had backstage access because I was working for the African Canadian weekly newspaper Contrast and the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest weekly.
 
That day I met many luminaries from the music, television and film industries. Norman Whitfield, Carol Cole (daughter of Nat King Cole), several members of Earth, Wind & Fire, actress Azizi Johari and Janis Hunter Gaye (then the wife of Marvin Gaye) were among them.
 
For some reason I struck up a conversation with Azizi Johari, who questioned me. She began to ask “Who are you?” and “Where are you from?”
 
I told Johari my name and said I was from Canada. When I mentioned I had grown up in Los Angeles but was born in Louisiana, the mood changed.
 
When I said, “I was born in Arcadia, Louisiana,” I had passed the test.
 
Johari was with Gaye’s wife Janis Hunter, and she asked me if I would like to meet Ms. Hunter.
 
Of course I wanted to meet her!
 
Janis invited me to come to Marvin Gaye Studios in Hollywood where he was working on his classic “Here My Dear” album.
 
In the studio with Marvin Gaye
 
My sister Lorraine and I headed to Gaye’s Hollywood studio. Shortly after we arrived, Janis walked in with Ed Townsend.
 
“Let’s Get It On” was originally conceived by Townsend, who had been just released from a rehab facility for alcoholism.
 
“Let’s Get It On” was about being free of booze. Townsend told me in an interview that Gaye flipped the script after he walked in the studio with a young Janis Hunter.
 
Gaye saw Hunter and the song was changed into an international sex anthem.
 
Hunter’s father is Slim Gaillard, who Malcolm X mentioned in his autobiography.
 
When my sister and I got into the studio, Gaye was mixing the song “Anger.”
 
Janis told Gaye, “This is the man I was telling you about.”
 
I knew Gaye had forgotten about our audition in Hollywood years before.
 
In between mixing, Gaye was listening to Larry Graham and Graham Central Station.
 
We chatted about music, and he was at work so I respected that.
 
I saw Gaye two times after my Hollywood encounter, once in Buffalo, NY and again in Toronto.
 
He had recently come back from exile in Europe and was hotter-than-hot with the album “Midnight Love” and single “Sexual Healing.”
 
Gaye was back with Harvey Fuqua, who had recruited him to be a member of Harvey and the Moonglows.
 
Fuqua was with Gaye from the beginning until the end. He is heard on ”Sexual Healing” along with his brother-in-law, Gordon Banks, on guitar.
 
“Midnight Love” brought Gaye back into the international spotlight.
 
The world witnessed him receive two Grammy Awards in 1983.
 
I will remember Gaye as a man torn between wanting to make music to move Africa, Africans and all oppressed people forward, and having to make commercial music because of his good looks and charisma.
 

 
Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and grew up in Los Angeles. He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects. Richmond is currently working as a producer/host of Saturday Morning Live on Radio Regent (radioregent. com.) He can also be heard on Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio (uhururadio. com) His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear newspaper

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