One of the great ones, he was. To me, he was the heir to the great Sam Cooke. Handsome, with a killer voice, and talent just oozing out of his pores. His life was troubled, but his art was pure. He had visions of being a Black Sinatra, but Berry Gordy and his Motown machine turned him into an R&B star and heartthrob.
Smack in the middle of what is known as Black Music Month, today’s Morning Groove features a song that I had never heard from this man until 1995. Though created in 1972, it was never released until The Master: 1961-1984, a four-cd box set was released. Once I heard it, I couldn’t believe it had sat unreleased for so long. But, given the albums he released during that time, it was too late for What’s Going On, and didn’t really fit on Trouble Man or Let’s Get It On.
If you didn’t already know, I’m talking about Marvin Gaye. Today’s Morning Groove is a song called “Piece Of Clay.”
It seems that Gaye had several different careers in one. Starting out in the latter stages of the doo-wop era as a member of the Marquees and Harvey (Fuqua) & The New Moonglows, he certainly learned about harmonies. I believe he took this knowledge with him into his 70s recordings, where he accompanied himself on background vocals, giving him sweet harmonious sounds behind his wonderful leads. Once he started having hits at Motown, he then moved toward singing duets, with Mary Wells, Kim Weston and most famously, Tammi Terrell. His duets with Terrell are the stuff of legend, and are still beloved even today. After Terrell’s death, Gaye chafed at the Motown production machine, becoming one of the first to request, and get, freedom to produce his own music his way. During this time, he created several masterpieces; most notably the three albums I referenced earlier in this post. Then after tax and drug troubles chased him into exile in Belgium, he returned triumphant in 1982 with “Sexual Healing,” his biggest hit ever.
Today’s song sounds like something of a hymn of sorts, with the organ and the slow, steady tempo. Marvin sings of what’s wrong with the world today, saying in the refrain that “everybody wants somebody/to be their own piece of clay.” It also is one of the few songs from that era that was not written or co-written by Gaye; Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer share writing credits for this gem.
Enjoy today’s Morning Groove; if you have never heard it before, I hope you like it. As always, thanks for reading and listening.