Ah, February the month of love. The time of the year when men and women from all over try to impress the ones they love with heartfelt gifts and sentiments of undying love. Of course, if you’re like the statistical average of Americans then you’re single and slightly bitter about all these couples being happy. We’ve all been there, a bit heartbroken, contemplating life without them, and maybe seeking some kind of revenge for lost love.
So here’s to you single folks, the one album that’s still about love and yet is the biggest form of revenge towards an ex possible: Here, My Dear by Marvin Gaye.
In 1975 Marvin Gaye was going through a personal hell of sorts. His first wife, Anna Gordy Gaye, was divorcing him and seeking palimony for their adopted son Marvin Gaye III. His spending habits were causing him to fall further and further behind on payments to the point that in September of that year, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Then in 1977, after a tour in Europe and the successful release of Got To Give It Up, Marvin was approached by his lawyer who offered him a way to pay the palimony. Half of all proceeds from his next album would go towards paying back Anna, and with that agreement Here, My Dear was set into motion.
This record perfectly reflects every bit of that history and all the emotional baggage that came with it. It’s almost as if Marvin figured a way to perfectly encompass the feeling of a divorce into a record. While initially a commercial and critical failure, it’s easy to see why this album is considered a milestone in song writing for him.
Side 1 opens with the titular Here, My Dear and it makes it very clear that this album is part of a healing process. “I guess I’d have to say this album is dedicated to you,” croons Gaye over a soft beat. “Although perhaps you may not be happy, this is what you want, so I conceded. I hope it makes you happy. There’s a lot of truth in it, babe.” It’s a gut punch, and only goes on from there. I Met a Little Girl follows and it plays with the doo-wop genre while mixing in heavy doses sarcasm and serenity. For a moment you know that he really did love Anna.
Yet the next song obliterates the idea of redemption with just the mere title, When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You. Repeated in various forms three times throughout the album, the songs between each version offer glimpses at where Marvin’s head was. The song Anger is a full case of anger, while Is That Enough, Sparrow and Anna’s Song (a song so personal and invasive that Anna contemplated suing Marvin for invasion of privacy) tell of jealousy, bitterness, and longing for a lost.
Yet with all this sadness the album ends with a hopeful note in Falling In Love Again, dedicated to his next wife and then girlfriend Janis. It’s a wish and a promise that maybe now he can get things right this time around (he didn’t, as Janis would leave him after two years together after the album was published, but let’s try to be happy here).
An act of self torture, revenge, and healing Here, My Dear is a album that shows you the darkest places a bright heart can sink, and what it takes to get it back in working condition.