In Black America Podcast: Mercy, Mercy, Me: The Art, Loves & Demons of Marvin Gaye
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Michael Eric Dyson, author of Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye. The best-selling Motown artist of all time, Marvin Gaye defined the hopes and shattered dreams of an entire generation. Twenty-eight years after his tragic death-he was shot by his father-his relevance persists because of the indelible mark his outsized talent left on American culture. A transcendent performer whose career spanned the history of rhythm and blues, from doo-wop to the sultriest of soul music, Gaye’s artistic scope and emotional range set the soundtrack for America’s tumultuous coming of age in the 1970s.
Dyson’s searching narrative illuminates Gaye’s stellar ascendance-from a African American church in Washington, D.C., to the artistic peak of What’s Going On?-and charts his sobering personal decline. Dyson draws from interviews with those closest to Gaye to paint an intimate portrait of the tensions and themes that shaped contemporary urban America: racism, drug abuse, economic adversity, and the long legacy of hardship. Gaye’s stormy relationships with women, including duet partner Tammi Terrell and wives Anna Gordy and Janis Hunter, are examined in light of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Also Dyson considers family violence in the larger context of the African-American life and how that heartbreaking legacy resulted in Gaye’s death.
On April 1, 1984, a Sunday morning, the day before his 45th birthday, his father shot Gaye to death after a violent argument.