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Monday, Apr. 22, 2002
Many, many years ago (so many that the adjective ought well to be turned over to "most", instead) I commuted back and forth to college and a part time gas money gig, and generally played music current and otherwise on my incredibly high tech Sanyo cassette deck in the car.

The big, rumbling Dodge with more engine than chassis and more tires than seats. Yes indeedy, it was a rocketship with unfulfilled potential. But it had a theater grade stereo. You can do a lot when you transport large speakers more suitable for the home and stuff them up under the eaves of the car. Even if, at the time, all we had to draw from were cassette media and a lot of desire for better.

I'm brought back to that time because, after some recent serendipitous browsing at the local CD guru's store, I bent, snatched and retrieved a copy of something I used to have on cassette. And thought I'd never see again.

Why it happened to be right there, right there, where my questing fingers happened to be and my eyes were sure to follow is part of why I continue to haunt the "little" CD stores in my life. Why the big boys with their miles of aisles and huge advertising budgets only get a part of my dollar. The little stores are, for all the reasons we all know, still out there to make the music happen.

I didn't even bother taking it home, I popped that CD into the player the minute I hit the truck and it's stayed there ever since. And it might well stay there for years. Haunting and blowing its' sound thru my little concert hall on wheels.

Marvin Gaye. Ever think you'd see an Outfoxed dissertation on a rhythm and blues singer who was dead before his time? He had a life that was blessedly set amongst things we all do. We all spend more money than we'd like to, have more problems with those we love than we should, struggle and live and make amends and mistakes and do not ever, ever stop looking for what might be the right way to make it all easier.

Marvin married young, he married someone quite a bit older than he was and spent the next 17 years doing the soul sound thing and recording and living large. When it came time for his wife to blow the whistle on him and his unapologetic ways, he was essentially broke and the lawyers stepped in to make a deal. Which basically said, okay sport, time to pay up. Get the divorce. No money? Better cut an album and oh by the way, you owe the ex a major portion of the royalties that you make on it.

Being the sort of independent fellow that he was, Marvin cut an album all right.

He sang all about the ex, the marriage, and the problems, stuck it on a disc and shoved a "Here, My Dear" title on it. Those who have reviewed it since that time have alternated between calling it "silly, disconnected raving" and "total, unrealized genius". It didn't sell particularly well, the ex-wife didn't get the million or so dollars she was hoping for, and several years later Marvin was shot to death by his own father, in the home Marvin had bought for him.

Pretty wild, huh? Just one more rock and roll self-crucifixion, if you follow the tabloids.

Unless you heard what he had to say on track 3. God.

When he decided to just let it all go. And there I was in the big Dodge listening to him wail out all his agony, his crying, his sweet harmonics that bit in and disturbed. He kind of warmed up to it in the first two tracks and then grabbed on to the subject matter and squeezed.

Now as I recall we tried a million times
Again and again and again
And that isn't all, I gave my love to you each time
To make amends

I rode around, windows down, with about as much knowledge of divorce as I had of marriage at 19 years old, and tried to make sense of what he said. There was no making sense of it, he just blew sound out of that thing and made it sear.

Memories of the things we did
Some we're proud of, some we hid
So when two people have to part
Sometimes it makes them stronger

I've mentioned the rub before, haven't I? When a musical sound rubs two notes so closely related, say, an A and a A# together and makes you twist your face a bit at the dissonance but it works, it works on your soul and it works on the song. When Marvin did this with vocals, back dropping himself on the tracks with his own voice, it just made my gear shifting hand slap the three-speed in 4/4 time. And take the high falsetto part while he growled away down low.

It doesn't matter, baby
Take a lesson, come on
I never thought I'd see the day when
You put me through what you put me through

And right up to the point where I, after not even hearing the song for some 25 years, put it on the Sony and rotated the dial to the extreme right, I didn't think it could ever affect me the way it did when I was 19. Lot's of stuff happens like that, what we had when young, when we understood about one-tenth of what we understand now. But the feeling, the flow, it never much changes. It smoked me out of the truck as much as it did the hopped-up Dodge now lying in someone's scrap yard under a thousand other cars hence.

When did you stop loving me, when did I stop loving you?

He didn't do much after recording that. Sure, he had a couple of albums, he made a living. He existed and floated along, pretty well convinced that he was going to die young and sure enough, did. 45 isn't old enough to make a life, but it was what he had and he contributed what he could.

I'm pretty sure I've learned a little bit about life, divorce, relationships since he made that unearthly and seamless tune. Probably not enough, not enough to express it quite like he did. But I'm glad I found it again, it reminds me of just how painful it could be, should I let it. Should I go after the bad side of things like he did. Or maybe, if I were to just acknowledge that things lost cannot be retrieved.

Music is a strange, strange thing to have happen to you. Marvin, lord knows, let it torture him. He made beauty of it, he made rage.

Which is why I keep listening. And learning.

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