Marvin Gaye’s followup to his signature masterpiece, “What’s Going On,” was finally released by Motown and UMe on March 29, which would have been his 80th birthday.
For 47 years, “You’re The Man” (1972) was shelved. It contained socially conscious and empowering music similar to what Gaye recorded for his previous album, but Motown executive Berry Gordy was apparently worried the lyrics would “spark a backlash from Motown’s conservative fan base.”
Each of the songs were eventually released in one form or another, however, the “lost” album was never available to listen to in its entirety, as Gaye intended—until now.
It was very much a product of the early 1970s. In particular, Gaye grappled with the harsh reality that the civil rights movement of the 1960s had dwindled yet pervasive racial, economic, environmental, and social injustices remained.
President Richard Nixon ran for re-election in 1972, and the Watergate scandal ignited in June of that year. The United States was still perpetrating mass atrocities in Vietnam. All of which troubled Gaye.
The album is the work of an artist with a golden voice, who struggled with both personal demons and the demons plaguing the country in which he lived.
Anti-violence themes and pleas to turn away from destructive acts that will only breed further oppression run throughout the album, especially on “The World According To X.”
Perhaps, one of the most uplifting and sublime protest anthems on the album is “Try It, You’ll Like It.”
“Try it, you’ll like it. What the world needs now is a little more love,” Gaye sings.
The lyrics are an antidote to fear, which breeds cynicism and distrust not only of others in our communities but of our capacity to bring about transformative change.
“People are staying home when they got chips on their shoulder,” Gaye observes. “We must all work together. We must help one another.”
Later, Gaye adds, “Health, wealth, and freedom—it wouldn’t be hard to find. How you gon’ get it together with chains around your mind? We must all work together.”
On the surface, it may seem like Gaye merely appeals to our inner selves. Gaye certainly appeals to us to find love in our hearts. Yet, more significantly, that appeal is a call for solidarity in times of uncertainty and despair.
Gaye believed, “An artist, if he is truly an artist, is only interested in one thing, and that is to wake up the minds of men. To have mankind and womankind realize that there is something greater than what we see on the surface.”
Love helped fuel a civil rights movement that stood up to deep-seated bigotry and injustice. That shining voice sought to remind people of their power as a people. And Gaye was one of those artists of the period that understood one of the most radical choices a people could make was to free their selves to be ruled by love in a time of great chaos and fear.
Listen to “Try It, You’ll Like It”: