When "Midnight Love" finally hit the streets in the autumn of 1982, it marked the triumphant return of Marvin Gaye. I first got wind of it when, half asleep in the back seat of a car riding through Belgium on a November afternoon, en route to a gig in Luxembourg, I heard this tenor saxophone coming over the radio and, in my half conscious state, thought it sounded like Michael Brecker on one of his top forty disco type solos of that era. But when I heard the unmistakably familiar voice of Marvin Gaye as well as the vague familiarity of the tune itself, I suddenly realized, "Holy shit! That's me!" The tune was "Joy", one of the album cuts I played on. When we got to Luxembourg, I found the nearest record store and bought the album (Vinyl LPs were still the main medium for recorded music).
So, once I got settled in Boston, I started calling the numbers he gave me. All were either constantly busy or disconnected. This was understandable, since Marvin Gaye, with his new found success, was probably the most in demand person on the planet.
So as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, and after many attempts at contact the best I knew how, it became obvious that I wasn't going to be on any Marvin Gaye "the whole world, the whole year" tour.
Oh well, that's show biz (which sucks, for the most part), but I survived.
I showed up at the tofu joint about 8:00 AM. I went in the front door of this little "factory" and was greeted by Mr. To-Fu himself.
He said, "You know tofu? Chi-nee Cheese!" Being pretty much a vegetarian in those days, I was more than familiar with the stuff.
He explained to me that I, with two other guys who hadn't yet shown up, were to unload a flat bed truck that was due to arrive, with 100, eighty pound sacks of soybeans (from which tofu is made). He took me around back to show me the storeroom, which was about six or seven steps below street level.
As he unlocked and opened the creaky, splintered wooden door and took several steps before flicking on the light switch, I heard sounds like "squish, crunch and pop" every time he took a step. When the light came on, I saw why. Everywhere you looked were the biggest, healthiest looking cockroaches I'd ever seen, and I mean they were everywhere. These were some high protein, soybean eating critters with an unlimited food supply. Most of them scattered at the light but some remained unconcerned, sitting up on the soybean sacks, flexing, chillin', antennae twitching nervously every which way.
To say I was grossed out is an understatement. Tofu-man himself was entirely unconcerned, like they were his pets. I mean I grew up in NYC where just about everybody, rich or poor, has to deal with with roaches at one time or another, or frequently; but I had never seen anything like this. I tried not to let it "bug" me, at least not openly.
So I sat outside waiting for my two "colleagues" to show up. The first to arrive was this white dude, a Bostonian of apparent Irish decent, or so I assumed. He went on and on about somebody in his 'hood whose ass he was getting ready kick for some reason. The other guy, a black dude, came on a bike. He was a tall and lanky and wore shorts.
"You got anything to put on it?"
I couldn't help but bust out laughing, but he must have known something I didn't.
Eventually, the truck showed up.W e "all got along" and finished the job in a few hours. During a break I was seriously considering calling all the hotels in town to find Marvin Gaye so I could tell him, "Help Marvin, I'm being held captive in a Chinese tofu factory, with giant cockroaches eating my flesh. Heeeeelp!", but I thought the better of it.
So I had time to go home, take a shower, have some lunch (tofu, hah hah!), take a nap, before me and my girl went to the show.
As we got to the open air venue, I thought I might give it one last chance to at least say "hello (goodbye)" to Marvin; so I went around backstage where they had a fenced in area for the performers. You could see into this "performers only" area and I recognized Dick Gregory, who was walking around.
I told security that I had played on the album and he seemed to believe me because he went inside for a moment and came back with McKinley Jackson, who did the horn arrangements for "Midnight Love" and was now the musical director (MD) for the tour. I introduced myself to him and told him that I had soloed on several tracks on the album and that I'd like to say a quick hello to Marvin, if possible. He said, "OK, wait a minute."
He then disappeared for several minutes. When he came back, he told me, "We're getting ready to go on, so Marvin won't be able to see you now. I'm sorry." So I told him, "No problem. Wish him the best of luck for me. Have a good show".
And that was that.
According to various sources, Marvin Gaye was always less than comfortable as a performer. In fact, according to David Ritz's book "Divided Soul", Marvin put off touring in 1983 until the last minute, and agreed to do so only when it became absolutely necessary, due to his financial concerns.
The book also details events in the downward spiral of fear and paranoia that slowly sucked him under during the months of the '83 tour and afterwards.
We are all well aware of the tragic event that ended his life the following April 1st, one day before his 45th birthday.
Having relocated to NYC in the Fall of '83, I first heard about Marvin's death upon returning to Boston on a visit. I was, of course, shocked and saddened by the news, but at the same time, not totally surprised.
Marvin Gaye most definitely had his demons and his dark side. I only got to know the man briefly during parts of the 2 days in which I had the fortunate opportunity to work with him in the studio.
I only saw a happy, confidant, upbeat individual who was comfortable in his own skin and therefore comfortable to be around.
And while you can't ever really get to know someone in two days, especially a personality as complex as Marvin Gaye, this is the way I remember him and in that sense, I guess you could say, I saw the "Best of Marvin Gaye".
"Marvin (Marvin - Marvin)................he was a friend of mine" ("Nightshift" Commodores, 1985)