We assumed there would be no more sexual healing after Marvin Gaye's death in 1984. The April Fool's Day murder left us speechless, as if our dreams had been shattered with a blow from the GI Joe generation. Marvin's religious fanatic of a father blew away his precious love, and ours with it, leaving us to a long intermission of bewilderment.
April 1st has always been a reminder of what really happened in 1984. Of the music bandstand that lost its soul, blaring out the sugary whine of nameless pop stars. Of who got re-elected that fall and how many soldiers had just lost their lives in Beirut. Of the tidal wave of AIDS that hovered like a serpent hurricane ready to sack our shores.
My generation didn't really know the Prince of Motown. Those big R & B hits were part of another era; the doo-wops dated back to our parents. We didn't relate to the urgency of war in "What's Going On?" We associated "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" with nostalgic films. But we were still romantic slow dancers; sex hadn't become a menace to society. Ain't nothing like the real thing.
Marvin Gaye was "Sexual Healing" to us; the most revolutionary artist of the 1970s, he was like the Simone deBeauvoir for the unread middle class. The final serenade for our AIDS generation.
When Marvin Gaye died we knew one of the greatest landslides in presidential politics was about to occur, ushering the United States back to the era of bad Hollywood. The screens projected the black and white pronouncements of veiled romance. The holy rollers, who would soon be embroiled and weeping over their phallic peregrinations, didn't mince words over the looming AIDS tragedy.
I lost my first friend to AIDS a year or so after Marvin died. Suddenly, all of our friends were beefing up like burned out rock stars in Vegas, as if their bloated faces were an antidote to the marrow-sucking ravishes of AIDS. The insidious phase, "He's sick," came into play. The sickness, like any plague, eventually worked its way into our pysche, our blood stream, our outlooks on sex and sexual healing. We became medieval in our stares. We retreated from our plague-ridden generation, surrounded by walls of fear and prejudice; we remained in a state of exile, as Albert Camus, had written, from ourselves. It took us some time to come back.
I miss Marvin Gaye, just like I miss that generation of friends I lost to AIDS. Marvin would have turned 70 on April 2nd.
But every April 1st, I find myself reaching for that recording that hovers around the side of my stereo system like a sign from the Motown angels. I'll fast-forward to the title song, push play, and then blast the song to kingdom come. For several minutes, the walls will bend with the exultant cry of Marvin's message of sexual healing.