“Sexual Healing” marked one of the best comebacks in music history-the return of Marvin Gaye to public consciousness after a half-decade in the commercial wilderness. Although Gaye didn’t stop recording during those five years, he was mired in struggles-struggles with his record company (Motown), struggles with women (two divorces during this period), and struggles with a litany of mental issues, compounded by a drug problem. “Sexual Healing”, his first single for Columbia, became his first Top 10 pop hit since 1977 and spent over two months at the top of the R&B chart. It also won the crooner the first and only two Grammy Awards of his career.
The award for Best R&B Vocal Performance found Marvin in a sea of fellow legends-Stevie Wonder, Grorge Benson, Ray Parker Jr. and Luther Vandross. It was also presented to Marvin by two of the music world’s most colorful characters-Rick James and Grace Jones. The banter between the two is priceless-and Rick’s endless flirtation is hilarious.
In Rick’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfreak, he mentions that he was a little unnerved when calling Marvin to the stage, as the king of punk funk had fostered a close relationship with Marvin’s most recent ex-wife, Janis Hunter. The two are seen having words after Marvin comes on stage, and Rick revealed in his book that Marvin paid high compliments to Janis. Thankfully, Marvin was too classy to kick Rick’s ass on stage. Grace probably could’ve taken both of them at once.
Of course, the awarding of these prizes to Marvin was timely, as he would be dead just 14 months later at the hands of his own father. However, before he left us, Marvin not only left us with this priceless TV moment, but he left us with one of the most gleefully erotic soul songs in history.