Where do you start with a song like Marvin Gaye’s I Want You? A piece that I’m sure most people see as sonic perfection. All of them ascribing a different meaning, their own personal story, to the music and lyrics. Is it simply a love / lust song, a hymn, a celebration, or is it something more? For me it’s shot through with this beautiful melancholy, this incredible unrequited yearning.* Its combination of congas, low-key strings, and acid-edged guitar, creating an unshakeable air of anticipation and ache.
“Don’t you wanna care, ain’t it lonely out there?”
But maybe that’s just an ugly duckling’s point of view.
Leon Ware and Arthur “T-Boy” Ross (Diana’s ill-fated brother) were the writers, but like everything he recorded, Marvin inhabits, lives the song. Drawing on a sadness, a sorrow, way, way deep down. Soaring from his tenor to high notes that always make me tear up. His soul on show. Pain palpable. In part, a reflection of the turbulent “triangular” relationship that he found himself in.**
Back in the early 1990s I saw Madonna list I Want You in her all time top ten tunes, which made her seem a little bit more human, momentarily vulnerable even. It was hard to think of “The Material Girl” as ever suffering from longing from afar. Surely she got everything she wanted, everything she desired.
For those of a Balearic bent, I Want You was one of the tracks that Jose Padilla, at Ibiza’s Cafe del Mar, played, and played.*** I’m certainly no expert but I’m sure that everyone knows there have been countless re-edits and remixes of the track. Most unofficial – the first I was aware of was on a label called Sugar Shack**** – some legit. Since Jose’s passing, in tribute, I’d been including John Morales’ magical makeover in chillout and open air sets.
London label South Street now add to the story by pressing Kevin Reeves` Jam-Alternate Mix to vinyl for the first time. Lifted / licensed from the 2003 CD-only I Want You Deluxe Edition, this is a building, largely instrumental take, focused on the increasingly ascending orchestration, saving Marvin’s vocals and chorus for its final moments.
Turn the 12 over and you’ll find another treasure in the form of an unedited mix of I Wanna Be Where You Are, also from that Deluxe Edition. While on the original 1976 LP release its sultry, shuffling groove is restricted to an 80 second interlude, here it’s allowed to shine as a 6 and 1/2 minute smooch. This in my opinion is a tune to be added to Marvin’s “Balearic Soul” canon, alongside triumphs, wonders, such as his sublime, sensitive cover of Donald Byrd’s Where Are We Going?
The Jam-Alternate and Unedited versions of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You and I Wanna Be Were You Are are available on vinyl for the first time, care of South Street.
*Something that I’m thankfully unshackled from, now that I’m past it, old, and over the hill, but, boy, believe me, do I remember.
**Marvin was married to Tamla Motown founder Berry Gordy’s sister, Anna, and at the same time in love with Janis Hunter, a woman 17 years his junior.
***Jose even went as far as covering another track from the album, After The Dance.
****The Sugar Shack” is the name of painting used for the I Want You LP sleeve. Ernie Barnes created this iconic work of art in 1971. Marvin bought it, and with Barnes` help adapted the piece for the album cover. Inspired by a party at the Durham Armoury, in segregated North Carolina, that he snuck into as a kid, it’s all fluid lines and curves, capturing the collective movement, the moment, as the dancers all seem to sync. In Barnes` own words, at the heart of his art was the desire to portray “the beauty of the ghetto”, convey a sense of community, and a sense of pride. This is one of the reasons why his work is so incredibly important. Marvin later sold the OG to Eddie Murphy, for $50,000. A copy recently went for $16, 000, 0000 at auction.