Frankie Gaye (with Fred E. Bastev), Marvin Gaye, My Brother (Backbeat Books, 2003)

More than anything, however, Marvin was influenced by memories of his childhood. From where we had lived as youngsters, it was possible to see the domes and rooftops of various government buildings in the distance. We knew the power and wealth that existed just outside our own backyard, while at the same time we were immediately surrounded by poverty and despair.

This new biography from Frankie Gaye, Marvinís younger brother, and veteran Hollywood author, Fred E. Bastev, begins on April 1st 1984, the day that Marvin Gaye died. Unlike all the others who have written about this event, and Gayeís life in general, Frankie was right there through it all, up to and including his brotherís last words. What we get in his book is a unique insider view of what really happened, the good times and the bad, including his appraisal of where it all went wrong. Frankie Gaye, who died unexpectedly before this book's publication, resists any temptation to paint a glowing picture, and bravely reveals a more complex story.

"Creator of funk, author of soul, one of the classic, most creative, most publicized entertainers in the world ... two-time Grammy winner ... entertainer of the year ... American Music Award winner ... Columbia recording star, Mr. Marvin Gaye!!!"

Including sixteen pages of b&w photographs, an index, and a chronological listing of important events, Marvin Gaye, My Brother is comprised of Frankie Gayeís personal recollections and conversations. These include many quotes from those who took part in the events being described, which show the joyous times overshadowed by Marvinís relentless progress toward self-destruction. There are references to other stars and the parts they played both in Gayeís career and his private life, plus insight attributed to those known only to Marvinís inner circle. Itís a warts-and-all description of the way he lived when he wasnít in the spotlight, but without the vitriol employed by other authors.

"Along the way, so many people had tried to help Marvin, but after continually being turned down they cut themselves off. It was too difficult watching him destroy himself."

The overall impression given is of a man torn between his public and private selves. One, the angelic voiced soul singer, marketed as a black sex god, and the other an introspective, strongly religious man, whose abiding ambition was to win the love of his father. Jealous of Marvinís success, fanatically religious, and yet in his own mind trying to do the right thing, it is Gaye seniorís presence which hangs over the book — as it did his sonís life — like a poison cloud. This, when added to the starís lack of judgment in business, inability to maintain a stable relationship with a woman, and constant battle against the lure of drugs, gives credence to the darkest theory about his death. That being that he was driven by drug-induced paranoia to set his father up to be his killer, as an act of suicide.

Father felt superior because he was a dedicated believer and teacher. Marvin because he knew he had talent as a singer and songwriter. Father was one of Godís emissaries on Earth; Godís Word was Fatherís word. If it was written in the Bible, it was law. Marvin, on the other hand, believed his talents were God-given. In using his talents, he knew God would not misdirect him.

When I was growing up in the UK of the early 1970s, Marvin Gaye was the epitome of Motown cool. He stood apart from the other great soul singers, because there was something about him that conveyed a sense of inner darkness. It made him seem more real than his contemporaries, none of whom had produced anything like the social commentary of "Whatís Going On." Marvin was a moody figure, who had clearly known turbulent times. As this book shows, from living in poverty he had risen to a point where the world was laid out below him, and it was then that he stepped off the mountain. For all his talent, he lacked the strength to live with what fame and fortune brought, and although people tried, no one could save him from himself. For anyone who enjoys Gayeís music, and would like to know about the real man behind the legend, this is an honest place to start.

[Nathan Brazil]