The ‘Blurred Lines’ of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Here, My Dear’: Music as a Communication Tort and Divorce Narrative
Monday, April 3rd, 2023 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
In 1977, singer Marvin Gaye—one of the most esteemed music artists of all time—did an audacious thing. Anna Gordy Gaye was divorcing Marvin and asking for one million dollars. Despite having a wildly successful career up to that point, Marvin was near financial ruin. His attorney, Curtis Shaw, hit upon an idea: Motown, Marvin's record label, had given him $305,000 as an advance for his upcoming-but-undeveloped album. Marvin would give Anna the $305,000 and pledge the first $295,000 of the royalties yielded from that recording. Instead of one million dollars, Anna agreed to $600,000, as did Motown's CEO Berry Gordy, Anna's brother. The judge wrote up an Order to that effect.
Composed, written and vocalized by Marvin alone, he first thought to do "nothing heavy, nothing even good." Then he changed his mind. The album that resulted? A brilliantly unsettling poison pen to and about Anna, sardonically titled Here, My Dear.
Released in December 1978, Here, My Dear laid bare to the world a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. From the double album's jacket illustrations and lyrics, down to the vocal colors and tones Marvin deploys, Anna is portrayed as greedy, vengeful and manipulative. The work was so upsetting to her that Anna publicly threatened to sue Marvin.
Professor Adamson’s talk explores the legal dimensions of that threat, and whether Here, My Dear conforms to or confounds frameworks that inform the performance of masculinity.
Bryan Adamson, MA, JD, David L. Brennan Chaired Professor of Law, School of Law Associate Dean of Diversity, School of Law
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