Research at depth and previously unpublished revelations make this adroitly told biography of soul-singer Marvin Gaye hard to put down. Despite Gaye's international fame, only a 1974 roman Ö clef about the Motown years (Elaine Jesmer's Number One With a Bullet) and friend David Ritz's Divided Soul (1985) describe his extraordinary life—or death. As British writer Davis (Motown, the History—not reviewed) explains here, when Gaye, 44, was shot and killed by his father on April 1, 1984, his fans were astounded. The singer's friends, however, knowing the violence that cocaine had created in Gaye, weren't surprised when the killer was found to have acted in self-defense. Singing at age three in his father's church, Gaye by age 20 had joined fledgling Motown as a singer and songwriter, penning hits for the Marvelettes and Martha and the Vandellas—here described, along with other singers, studio musicians, and Motown powerhouses, in authoritative and fascinating detail. Despite selling millions of R&B records, Gaye chafed at his straitjacket of love- and dance- songs. Finally telling Motown owner Berry Gordy in 1972 that he would never again record for him if he couldn't have artistic freedom, Gaye wrote, sang, played on, and produced What's Going On?—a seminal album for all R&B artists, one on which Gaye finally wrenched himself off the Motown bubble-gum assembly line and delivered songs about Vietnam, ecology, the black ghetto, and his own drug habit, which was progressively taking over his life. Probably in reaction to lifelong depression, Davis says, Gaye was a 20-year coke addict, often locking himself up alone for monthlong freebase binges. Davis iterates in depth Gaye's many deep contradictions—e.g., how, as a lover, he oscillated from terror that he could never live up to his reputation to a grandiose erotic braggadocio. Consummate biography of a troubled, compelling, and all-too- human character. (Thirteen b&w photographs.)

Pub Date: July 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-85158-487-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Mainstream/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

Did you like this book?


From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?