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Marvin Gaye, My Brother Hardcover – 30 May 2003
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About the Author
Frankie Gaye was a composer and singer, whose experiences in the Vietnam War were credited with influencing his older brother Marvin's album What's Going On. He died in December 2001 at the age of 60. Fred E. Basten, of Santa Monica, has written twenty books on Hollywood and entertainment.
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The main criticism of the book from others is that it doesn't go deep enough or tell the whole story. My counter to the critics is: why would we expect it to? As a brother, Frankie writes as one might expect - anecdotally, and in a sentimental tone here and there. That was his prerogative. Sibling biographies including Jermaine Jackson's book on Michael, inevitably leave out certain details. As a reader, we have to take it with a pinch of salt. I appreciated certain details about Marvin's life that I believe, could have only come from Frankie's eyes. His experiences in Vietnam that led in some ways to Marvin's social consciousness album What's Going On; the small moments between brothers; and Marvin's aspirations and character insights. Those who want to read about Marvin's erratic behavior won't get a juicy expose here - but that is already documented in David Ritz's Divided Soul.
Yes, the book does gloss over certain details. One should also note when Frankie is paraphrasing Marvin. Again, I take it as what it is - words from Marvin's mouth. The big question mark some readers have is over how Marvin and Frankie's father was characterised. Critics thought Frankie was too gentle on his dad. Well, he was his father's son after all. And Marvin's "snub" of Princess Margaret in London is also not covered in detail as it is in David Ritz's book. Still, it seems strange to brand the book as a superficial account of Marvin. It isn't. Neither does the book try to idealize the man.
The value of the book is in the early years and even in Marvin's final moments. Most of all, I appreciated that it was different from David Ritz's Divided Soul - the definitive biography and one of my favourite books. For a more complete Marvin read - buy that book. But this is certainly part of Marvin's legend and canon.
He gave us an insight of his father, mother and sisters. He also let us know that although his father had a different way of doing things, he did indeed know Marvin's limitations. He taught Marvin to play the piano and he let us know his early shyness before he became a big star.
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