Marvin Is 60
Various Artists: Marvin Is 60
Remakes are usually a bad idea. When an artist leaves his or her mark on a particular song, 99 times out 100 anyone coming afterward only ends up looking foolish. There are exceptions of course: Aretha Franklin’s loose, funky version of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” is a classic in its own right, and Aretha blows Smokey Robinson away on her version of the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears.” Sheer audacity and vision makes Miles Davis’ interpretation of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” work; the same goes for Tom Jones’ very non-Prince-like “Kiss.” Donny Hathaway is the only person on Earth who could arguably sing “What’s Going On” with more urgency and soul than Marvin Gaye.
No one on the new Marvin Gaye tribute album, Marvin Is 60, is up to the level of Donny Hathaway, much less Marvin Gaye. Gaye is one of the most important and influential artists, not just in R&B, but in contemporary music. Any adjectives and accolades you apply to him are probably not enough. But for a birthday tribute, Motown wheeled out an endless stream of interchangeable male singers, also-rans, unknowns, and barely talented video creations.
Let’s just go down the line, shall we? On point, you have no-talent Erykah Badu and mumbler D’Angelo butchering “Your Precious Love.” Next the nondescript Brian McKnight rasps “Distant Lover.” Then there’s the most elevator-music-singing, nonpassionate, fake-jazz-making singer of all time, Will Downing, easy-listening himself through—get this— “You Sure Love to Ball.” Jon B., Montell Jordan, Chico DeBarge, and JOE do stuff too, but honestly, does it really matter what classic Marvin song which member of the Legion of Nondescript Urban-Contemporary Singers blunders through?
The only slight bright spot in the whole mess is Gerald Levert singing “Let’s Get It On.” Levert can sing, has his own style, and gives a great effort. He can’t fill Marvin’s shoes—but then, who can? That’s the point! Leave classic soul music alone! You! Will! Fail! Miserably! Do yourself a favor—go listen to Let’s Get It On, and let Marvin Is 60 die the quick, quiet death it deserves.