Marvin Gaye’s story should be left alone

The biopic is probably the toughest story to tell. Stars and legends of celebrity, politics, athletics, etc., live such interesting and full lives that you have to condense it down into a 2-hour movie complete with actors and actresses who fit the characters in this person’s life story to a T.

This is why I believe there is no way possible a Marvin Gaye biopic would ever work and I wish people would leave Marvin’s life as it is. That apparently will not stop acclaimed director Cameron Crowe from filming a story on the legendary singer, with Terrance Howard being considered for the lead role. Rapper Common has also expressed interest in being Marvin in a film.

For starters, as much as I like Terrance Howard as an actor and Common for how he’s dedicated himself to the craft, neither man resembles Gaye in the physical form in the least. The point of a biopic is to make the audience believe that the actor/actress playing that role (i.e. Jamie Foxx in “Ray” and Jim Carrey as Andy Kauffman in “Man on the moon”) is indeed that person. Those two don’t seem capable to pull it off, while little-known Jesse L. Martin could pull it off without so much as make-up.

More importantly, even though he lived to be just 44 years old, Marvin Gaye’s life had so many twists and turns, starring moments and setbacks, that’s virtually impossible to pick out the moments that could make a two-hour flick worth watching – SOMETHING important will be left out.

While reading may not be the national pastime it used to be, anyone looking to fully understand Marvin Gaye and everything that came with him should read David Ritz’s sterling “Divided Soul.” Released in 1985, it was what Ritz was able to put together after Marvin’s death, while the two had planned to work together on a book similar to Ritz’s “Brother Ray” that he wrote with Ray Charles some seven years earlier.

Hours of interviews and time spent with Marvin across continents and insight from the people closest to him paint a clear picture of the deeply troubled man Gaye was in spite of all his success as a music legend. It’s considered the top music biography of all time, and it stands as such for a reason – Ritz thoroughly broke down each period Marvin’s life from beginning to the tragic end at the hand of his father on April 1, 1984.

If Cameron Crowe or anybody planning to do a Marvin Gaye biopic can’t pick from “Divided Soul,” then they should leave it alone.

Finally, there’s also the shock many casual Marvin Gaye fans could feel from knowing things other “I heard it through the Grapevine” or the fact that his father shot and killed him. The festering resentment those two shared for each other led to the moment of tragedy and while his drug use might not shock anyone who was of age during that era, his troubled relationships with both of his wives and many other women may come as a surprise.

However, those of us who are fortunate enough to own a copy of “Divided Soul” know what’s real. And what’s real is Marvin Gaye’s story is better told in the pages of history, rather than on Hollywood’s big screen.


2 thoughts on “Marvin Gaye’s story should be left alone

  1. I agree totally with your assessment, from the view of maintaining the purity of Marvin’s story. But, in a weird way, I think that a biopic of his life, as flawed as we know it will be, may introduce a generation of music lovers to Marvin’s music, and his message.

    As Will Smith did with Ali, and Jamie Foxx with Ray, there may be room for 90’s and 2000’s babies to immerse themselves in the sublime genius of someone like Marvin. As troubled as he was, the time for young people knowing and appreciating music with a message is more troubling.

    And if a movie can help to remedy that, I’m all for it.

  2. I’m sort of divided on whether this movie needs to be made. In many ways i want to see it and in others i want to hold onto to the memories and music of this man, like when i attended his concert at 14 years of age with my mom. The sexiness of this man even had this young girl feeling things she never had. The music of this man would have me thinking and crying and longing and knowing that i had witnessed a living legend.BTW i really love the suggestion of Jessie Martin, not only is he a talented actor but also a very good singer.

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