Reviewed by Tony Cummings
The author is not only Britain's premier Christian poet, with these two titles, one newly published; one an updated version of his '93 Cliff biog, Steve Turner shows himself to be the finest pop music biographer in the world. Both books would have been serious challenges to any writer. In the case of Marvin Gaye there was already in existence David Ritz's 1985 study of the Motown soul star, A Divided Soul, which is considered by many a classic. In the case of Cliff Richard there have been a staggering 30 books written about Britain's biggest pop star. In both cases through meticulous research, interviewing hundreds of friends, relations and associates ignored by previous authors, and an unerring ability to pinpoint and assess the emotional and spiritual undercurrents of the singers under scrutiny. Steve has been able to produce works which are fresh, informative and thoroughly thought-provoking. Marvin Gaye was an immense talent, like many others I long considered. But his tortuous climb to the top chronicled here - from naïve doowopper; to Nat 'King' Cole balladeer; to hitmaker with the Holland-Dozier-Holland conveyor belt; to soulful social commentator; to singing advocate of sexual freedom was achieved at a huge cost. Scars were left on his psyche by a father who was a strict disciplinarian and Pentecostal preacher yet also a licentious cross-dresser and drunk. By the time Marvin was clocking up million sellers, a destructive pattern of sexual perversion and drug abuse was established in the singer's life. Throughout his troubled life the singer retained a belief in God though he seemed utterly unable to exert the least discipline on his life. Consequently, the singer's talk of God seems like mind-spinning delusion. The spiritual schizophrenia which overtook the tortures soul star is summed up in one startling paragraph detailing a glitzy party CBS threw for the successful release of "Midnight Love". "After snorting cocaine in the men's room Marvin joined Larkin Arnold on stage to address the guests.'Someone asked me yesterday about my belief in God and this sex business,' he stated. 'I'll answer now as I did then, that perhaps in the past my consciousness was not all it should have been. But during the recording of this record I felt very close to my Maker and I see this as a means towards the end of serving Him.' He then sang an acappella version of the Lord's Prayer, which moved everyone in the room." Turner's unflinching look at Gaye makes for at times grueling reading. But as a salient reminder of the destructive undercurrents at work in the music industry and our need to pray for those working within it, Trouble Man is a seminal book.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out