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Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves, and Demons of Marvin Gaye

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  254 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Twenty years after his murder at the hands of his own father, Marvin Gaye continues to define the hopes and shattered dreams of the Motown generation. A performer whose career spanned the history of rhythm and blues, from doo-wop to the sultriest of soul music, Gaye's artistry magnified the contradictions that defined America's coming of age in the tumultuous 1970s. In his ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 30th 2004 by Civitas Books (first published March 2004)
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Mercy, Mercy Me is not a biography of the singer, Marvin Gaye. It is instead a work of biocriticism; an analysis of Gaye's art, loves, and demons that turns to elements of his life to illustrates his genius and to detail his struggles and failures. I'm a sucker for psychological examination and Mr. Dyson nailed his analysis, and brought forth the "inner" Marvin, divulged sides of him that I never knew of and I'm sure weren't discussed before.

Overall, this is a superb critical analysis of Marvin
Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a very intellectual book about Marvin Gaye. I read a little bit from the beginning, but mostly I was interested in the end of his life, so I really only read the last chapter.

I always knew that Marvin was killed by his father, but until recently I didn't know anything about the circumstances. Last month I got into a discussion with a guy at a bar who knew quite a bit about it, and he told me the story. I thought it was the most moving thing I'd ever heard. So then I decided to try this
Sheeru Singh
Oct 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I believe that there was too much emphasis on his musical creations rather than his personal life. Indeed, Micheale Eric Dyson does describe each song, album and live performance of Marvin's in detail. He tried to get deep within the troubled singer's mind by dissecting his music. His intellectual theories of why Marvin was the way he was, is definitely interesting. Read this book if you are a fan of Marvin Gaye's music and if you are interested to know the conflict the musician had with spritua ...more
i chose to read this book for my love of marvin and curiosity as to what he was really all about. i wouldn't recommend this book since it really gives you little new information and assumes you already know everything about marvin gaye's life. also, it reads quite a lot like a college paper on the subject of marvin gaye biographies. after reading this, i still have to go back and read a full bio to find out anything substantial... ...more
Trevor Seigler
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Marvin Gaye may have the most tragic arc in all of American pop-culture history; a gifted, one-of-a-kind talent brought to ruin by his addictions and murdered by his own father in a violent altercation that merely capped off the lifetime of discord between them. He made some of the best music of the twentieth century, most of it with Motown (where he was Berry Gordy's brother-in-law). He experienced epic highs and lows, and cruelly had been on his way back to the top only a year before his death ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: music-biography
Marvin Gaye was a genius. Michael Eric Dyson is not. I was so excited to get this book and so disappointed when I tried to finish it. I've read David Ritz' book and will believe that to be true.
I still listen to "I Want You." It was my anthem the first time I heard it. It is the best album ever written. And that is a huge statement since I'm a die hard Lennon & McCartney fan.
What puzzles me about this book is why the Mr Dyson has to "go off" on corporal punishment, Afroedipal, which is word he
Katy Koivastik
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is an in-depth treatise on Marvin Gaye's perfectionism both as a singer and as a recording engineer. Author Michael Eric Dyson interviewed the people who knew Marvin best: sound engineers, ex wife Janis Hunter and other family members. The book is just as advertised. We learn much about Marvin's inner demons and his addictions.

Michael Eric Dyson is an erudite writer and thinker. He tells us about Marvin the man in the context of his time and in Black culture as a whole.

I thoroughly enj
Carlos Burnett
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Thank you, Mr. Dyson for this story and the depiction of Marvin from your point of view. I remember my Mother came home crying the day he died. He was an awesome artist tormented by some terrible demons.
Larry Burns
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
He had a really rough life.
Rafael Suleiman
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great examination of the life of Marvin Gaye.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I vividly remember the first time I heard “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” in a tent in the middle of a 2002 summer night at Bagram Airbase. I actually stopped what I was doing and asked what the track was because it was so deep, philosophical, and just plain good. Up until that moment, to me Marvin Gaye was “Grapevine” and “Aint No Mountain” and coke/sex addiction. I had no idea there was more to him and his work. When I heard that Michael Eric Dyson had written a book about him (at ab ...more
Erin Ashley
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvin Gaye is one of the most beautiful and tortured souls in music history I believe, so I really, really enjoy reading books about his life and him. I was born years after Marvin Gaye died, however from reading books like David Ritz' "Divided Soul" and this book by Michael Eric Dyson, I feel like I was around in those times if it makes any sense. I believe that reading the back story of his life and the creation process and etc, it really makes me more able to understand his music and life an ...more
Mr. John
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was looking for something that would not only give me a biography of Marvin Gaye, but also get "under the skin" of the legend- this book did just that. I thought this book did an excellent job of not only recounting his life, but also exploring his music and life under a microscope through several different lenses. It spoke about what influenced his music, what effects his music had on society and on his own life, what effects his music had on music as we know it today, and the price that all ...more
Chris White
May 19, 2013 rated it liked it

I decided to read this book because my friend recommended it to me, and I've heard the man's music and wanted to learn more. The book is about Marvin Gaye, a singer and actor from the 1960s/70s. The book takes a person through the life of Marvin Gaye, from his life as a pastors son in Washington D.C., to his rise to fame. It also talks about the extravagant ways he led his life, and the things that influenced his sex related music. But the whole time he struggled to maintain his relationship wit

Curtis Bozif
Oct 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Smart people who listen to music
Shelves: biography
I didn't enjoy this much as I thought I would. I'm reading it as part of my research for an art project I'm currently constructing (I was told by someone that in order to used Marvin Gaye in my work I need to "own him," what ever that means. Actually I only really found the last two chapters interesting. In those chapters Marvin's relationship with his father is inscribed by Michael Eric Dyson as an example of "Afroedipalism." A cultural phenomenon wherein black family dynamics "often rewrites t ...more
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
I read this book expecting a biography. While there are plenty of biographical elements to it, it is primarily a scholarly work. It presents a very detailed analysis to the sociological and psychological aspects of Gaye's life, their influence on his music, and the influence of his music on the sociology and psychology of his times. Dyson presents some very interesting arguments; the chapters about Gaye's struggle to reconcile his spirituality and his sexuality, as well as the discussion of the ...more
Brandon Archer
As a fan of Marvin Gaye' music, this book was pretty decent. There were some parts of the book that were a bit boring to me but overall this book gave a great overview of a talented and legendary yet deeply troubled musician. It explains about Marvin's strict religious upbringing at the hands of his father growing up in Washington D.C. and how it mentally affected him as he become a star of secular music. The book does great justice to the timeline of Marvin being a smooth new edition with Motow ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Mercy, Mercy Me grabs the reader's attention despite the fact that Elmore gives his audience no surprises. He reveals much of the ending at the beginning, but he does a good job of giving a psychosocial and spiritual basis for what motivates the characters. Mercy, Mercy Me has no one-dimensional, good or evil portrayals. Elmore also avoids the typical presto-spiritual resolutions that tend to plague much of today's Christian fiction. He does not attempt to solve every character's problem. And, ...more
Sheldon Jackson
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
I learned a lot about the artist Marvin Gaye. I was always a fan of his music, but after ready EMD I feel like I knew what went behind the music.

If one could imagine driving a car on a jagged road filled with potholes, yet feeling as though they are floating, you’ve captured the contrast in the rough subject matter of the lyrics and the soulfully smooth voice with which Marvin delivered them.
I love Marvin Gaye, I do not love efforts to psychoanalyze an artists work some 20 years after their death. His shooting death by his father was a suicidal act? And his "Proof" that him and Tammi Terell has a secret relationship is ludicrous.

Marvin, and myself as a reader, deserved significantly better than this.
Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was a good chronicle of Marvin Gaye's music didn't get into his life before music as much as I would have liked and it didn't really go deep into his personal relationships like I would have liked. However, it did give a bit more insight into his life and trials. I have more respect for his music than I did before although I was already a fan. ...more
Ryan Wilson
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fascinating look into the life of Marvin Gaye and an in-depth analysis of his music. While Dyson meandered at times (finishing the book with a chapter on R. Kelly?), he does a good job of teasing out the personal meanings of Gaye's songs with regard to his challenging life. ...more
Jul 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mercy, Mercy Me is a dry book. It is good information, but presented in a droll way. I didn't care at all for the final chapter featuring R. Kelly. If you are a Marvin Gaye super fan you may want to read this, casual readers, you would be better served reading another Marvin Gaye biography. ...more
Jeremy Winter
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-biography
I picked this up toward the end of the summer, had to put it down when the school year started, then finished it over the holiday break.

Since I am a music nerd I loved the detailed info about the recording sessions, etc.
Lori White
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Diana Mafikovi
I wanted to know more about the troubled life of this trouble man. Unfortunately, this was one of the most boring biographies I have read. Disappointing.
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Michael Eric Dyson is an American academic, author, and radio host. He is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.

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