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Marvellous Marvin Reconsidered

Ian MacDonald, 'The People's Music' (Pimlico), July 2003

RARELY DID AN artistic persona run more counter to the truth than in the case of Marvin Gaye. Onstage, he was the quintessence of urbanity: suavely sensuous, gliding blissfully on the updrafts of the rhythm, cooing his trademark "wooooh" and cajoling his lovers with endless endearments ("oh baby... darlin'... sugar..."). Behind this mask, though, was a charming muddle who longed to be a messenger but hadn't much to say, who sought "sanctified love" yet beat and humilated his women, and who wasted his last years on tacky synth backing-tracks for erotic clichés murmured from a sofa like a voice-over actor in a sex-movie dub studio.

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