Review #493: Here, My Dear, Marvin Gaye

Karla Clifton
3 min readDec 20, 2023

#493: Here, My Dear, Marvin Gaye

In another poignant, full-circle-moment, we’re once again revisiting Marvin Gaye, who topped RS’s Top 500 list with What’s Goin’ On. It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? Only seven more albums to go, then we’re leaving it all behind.

But what a wild album for Gaye to reappear with. Gaye made this record because he had to; as part of his divorce settlement with Anna Gordy (Berry Gordy’s sister), Gaye was required to record another album and pay the royalties to Anna. And Gaye wasn’t bitter about it at all. Just kidding: he leaned into his bitterness with his whole chest. The inside of the record was decorated with an illustration of a man handing a record to a woman.

Anna Gordy was apparently very upset upon listening to the full album, and threatened to sue Gaye, though she didn’t follow through on the threat. I mean, she’s right to be upset. Gaye reveals so much about his and Gordy’s marriage, from their sweet origin story (“I Met A Little Girl”) to their demise — many, many songs about their demise. The album is built around the bitter ballad “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You,” a chorusless song that sometimes seems to mourn their relationship, and other times seems to blame Anna exclusively: for taking his money, for calling the police on him, for generally being cold. He’s really, really mad about the money thing: see also “Is That Enough” and the kind of hilarious “You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You.” But the most personal, to me, was “Anna’s Song.” Usually songs with that naming convention are personal love songs: instead, this is his sardonic promise to Anna that he’s fulfilled the terms of their divorce. Work so hard, see me make a dollar. Ironically, in all his effort to make his ex-wife seem like an underhanded gold digger, he sometimes makes himself seem overly bitter and underhanded himself. After all, Anna Gordy couldn’t have released a record in retaliation.

Though honestly, maybe should have seen this coming. Gaye said in the liner notes to this that he wasn’t out to make a record that was “even good. … Why should I break my neck when Anna was going to wind up with the money anyway?” He didn’t usually write his own lyrics, but for this album he would often write them on the spot over whatever accompaniment he’d previously composed, leading to songs like “Here, My Dear,” where he just murmurs: I guess I’d have to say this album is/ Dedicated to you/ Although perhaps I may not be happy/ This is what you want.

But not every song is a stick-it-to-your-ex song. He reflects on his own “Anger,” realizing that it isn’t healthy to linger on feelings of malice, then acknowledges that it’s “Time To Get It Together,” admitting that he overindulges in nightlife and cocaine. And there are more than a few songs that seem downright hopeful — see “Sparrow” and “Everybody Needs Love,” a missive that includes Gaye’s own murderous father. I also loved “A Funky Space Reincarnation,” an ode to George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, where music won’t have no race and everyone is headed to the Plutotarium to be Plutotized.

Ironically, the one that aged the worst was “Falling in Love Again,” a jubilant song about his new love, Janis Hunter. It is sweet, the idea that even after such an acrimonious divorce, you can still find someone to care for. But alas; Janis and Marvin were divorced before the promotion of this album was finished. And this album was critical and commercial failure, only being recognized as the weird, strange work of art it was much later on. Whats more, Marvin and Anna repaired their relationship and became friends before his untimely death in 1984. She later said of this album, written as a weapon against her: “For a long time, I wouldn’t listen to it again. But with the passage of time I’ve come to appreciate every form of Marvin’s music, even songs written in anger.”

Side Note: I’m not really sure why he needed to include an “Instrumental” and “Reprise” of “When Did I…” They’re nice, but kind of unnecessary, no?

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