After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye - Jan Gaye (2015)

Impatient for Your Love

I’m touched,” said Marvin. “I’m joyful. I’m grateful to God. I couldn’t be happier, dear.”

He took me in his arms and held me to his chest. My heart beat wildly. I was deeply relieved. He had proven to be the man I knew he was.

“A son,” he whispered in my ear. “We will have a son.”

His statement took me aback.

“And what if it’s a girl, Marvin?”

“I think you’re having a boy.”

I didn’t like that thought. I didn’t like the pressure.

“We’ll see,” I said, forcing a smile.

We dropped the subject of boy versus girl, but his attitude continued to bother me. At the same time, I wanted to please Marvin. In the early years of our relationship that single mantra—I must please Marvin, I must please Marvin—never faded. If I didn’t please him, I was afraid he’d discard me.

The news of my pregnancy came at a great time. Marvin’s long-overdue record was complete. I had been to the studio countless times where I had heard the songs over and over again. I never tired of listening to that strangely erotic-romantic suite of songs. Even though Marvin contemplated his death in “If I Should Die Tonight,” even though he was pining for a woman lost in a faraway landscape in “Distant Lover,” even though he was drenched in sorrow and regret in the marriage-ending “Just to Keep You Satisfied,” the album’s dominant theme was sex, sex, and more sex. He wasn’t simply pleading “Let’s Get It On” once, he was pleading twice with “Keep Getting It On” and reinforcing the act of love a third time with “You Sure Love to Ball.”

At the moment it had been decided that “Let’s Get It On” would be the first single—the very night he finally played the album for the Motown executive who flipped out and called it an across-the‑board smash—Marvin and I went back to our little cave on Cattaraugus. He slipped the single into the cassette player and together we slowly slipped out of our clothes. Our naked dance of love gradually moved to the bedroom, where the song of love repeated endlessly as the act of love was the most intense in our still-young relationship. I had never been more inside his music, inside his life, inside his heart. That night the world was beautiful, blissful, passionate, and peaceful. Nothing could go wrong.

And then everything did.

I thought it was the result of being too sexually active. Turned on about being parents, Marvin and I had intense, athletic lovemaking sessions. With Let’s Get It On playing in the background, we tried to get as close to each other as was physically possible.

It was only days later when I began hemorrhaging. The blood was sudden and startling. I called my mother, then Marvin, then the doctor. Marvin met me at the hospital, where the doctor used the one word I did not want to hear: miscarriage.

The impact on both of us was enormous. We felt a great sense of loss.

“Dear,” said Marvin, “these things happen. God gives and God takes away. We praise him for his goodness and trust that next time he will bless us with a healthy boy. I have no doubt, darling, that there will be a next time.”

I wished he wouldn’t have restated his insistence on having a boy, but no matter—I was greatly relieved that he was comforting and loving and still committed to our relationship. As crazy as it might sound, I was afraid of disappointing him. I even feared that the miscarriage might chase him away. Fears of losing Marvin—fears of being undermined by those around him, fears of being banished from his world—were never far from my consciousness.

For years to come, love and fear shared the same chambers of my heart.

On certain nights the anxiety subsided. On one such night, the moon was full and the world was at peace. Marvin and I were driving up Highway 1 past Malibu. In the backseat were the actor Richard Lawson and his future wife Denise Gordy, the niece of Berry and Anna.

There seemed to be no hidden tension. Marvin and I had socialized with Richard and Denise before. We all got along splendidly. We loved to get high and laugh like little kids. The weed we had been smoking intensified the happy mood. The stars glittered. Moonlight danced off the Pacific. The ocean breeze was cool and refreshing. The universe was a friendly place. On the way up the coast, switching radio stations, we heard “Let’s Get It On” three different times. The song was soaring up the charts. Marvin couldn’t have been more delighted.

A few miles north of Malibu at Trancas Beach, the car sputtered to a halt. Without losing his customary cool, Marvin announced, “I’m afraid we’ve exhausted all our resources.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“No gas,” said Marvin.

“No problem,” said Richard. “The men will go get gas while the women wait behind.”

Marvin and Richard were gone for a good hour. When they returned, they were empty-handed.

“The gas station was closed,” said Richard.

“But all is not lost,” Marvin added. “Our resources are, in fact, not completely exhausted.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a joint. Denise and I applauded. Smoking added to the wild and woozy nature of the night.

“What now?” Richard asked Marvin.

“Now we explore,” said Marvin. “Look at that beach!”

Not concerned about a thing, Marvin was the first to throw off his shoes and step onto the sand. Denise followed by removing her top. I was a little hesitant.

“What about you, Jan?” asked Marvin. “Surely you have nothing to hide. Reveal yourself, dear. Reveal yourself proudly.”

For a second, I flashed on that awful day in Bel Air when, at age fourteen, my mother had allowed me to strip for Luke and Big Jack. But that was different. Those guys were creeps. Marvin was my man. He was proud that I had perfect breasts. I exposed them.

As we all made our way down the beach, Richard, not to be outdone by the women, decided to remove his pants. It took Marvin less than a minute to do the same. Our ridiculousness only added to our pleasure. Where were we going? We didn’t know, didn’t care. We cavorted as though we didn’t have a concern in the world.

Not fifteen minutes passed before we saw a woman coming in our direction. Marvin and Richard stepped back into their pants. Denise and I didn’t bother to put on our tops but covered our breasts with our hands. The woman stopped in her tracks.

“My God,” she said, “you’re Marvin Gaye. You’re absolutely beautiful!”

Before Marvin had a chance to reply, I whispered, “That’s Margot Kidder?”

“I am,” said the movie actress. “And I’d love for you guys to come to a party. I’m on my way there myself.”

“We’ve no good reason to refuse your kind invitation,” said Marvin. “Lead the way.”

Boldly, Margot planted herself next to Marvin. I thought that she might have the hots for my man. A few minutes later, the five of us reached a well-lit beachfront house where a party was in progress.

“Look who I brought,” announced Margot as we entered the living room. “It’s marvelous Marvin Gaye! Can you believe it?”

The host was the well-known actor Peter Boyle, thrilled that his friend Margot had somehow found Marvin wandering the beach outside his home. By mere chance, someone at the party had brought a copy of Let’s Get It On. Within minutes the song was blaring. All eyes were on Marvin, basking in the attention.

The party people freely shared their goodies. There was plenty of pot, coke, and acid. There was wild hippy dancing, arms flopping around with hips swerving. There was incense burning and candles lit everywhere. It was a laid back atmosphere. A few of the couples wandered off into the bedrooms. Margot stuck close to Marvin. Given the free-flowing sexual vibe, I wondered whether she would actually make a move on him. Before Margot had a chance, though, Peter Boyle made a bizarre move of his own. He took off the music to announce a surprise.

“Gather around, everyone,” he said. “It’s time for me to offer up something I’ve been waiting to show you all night. With our surprise guest of honor now in attendance, I will not keep you waiting.”

The next thing I saw was Boyle pulling down his pants and revealing his pale, hairy backside. It was quite a sight. That’s when Marvin decided that it was time to split. Against the protests of Peter and Margot, the four of us bade the party people good night and headed back to the car. Peter gave us a can of gas, and we were on our way home. There was a full moon out that night.

“How’d you like the evening?” Marvin asked me when we were back on Cattaraugus.

“Interesting.”

“Interesting good or interesting bad?”

“It was a little crazy,” I said. “I still can’t believe what we saw, but I’m glad we went.”

He kissed my forehead and slowly undressed me.

“It was exciting seeing you on the beach,” he said. “It’s exciting seeing you on the bed.”

That night we made beautiful love. In one another’s arms, we slept until early afternoon.

When I awoke, Marvin was staring into my eyes.

“I want us to go away,” he said.

“Where to?”

“Away from everyone, where it’s only you and me and Mother Nature. No city smog or crime or sirens in the middle of the night. No sounds except the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves. Fresh air. Blue skies. At night, looking at the stars. Let’s just get away from it all. Escape. Hide.”

“But your record’s out and it’s a hit. They want you to promote it.”

“Even a better reason to get away. What do you say, dear? Will you come with me? Can you run away with me into the woods?”

“Where?” I asked again.

“It doesn’t matter. As long as it’s in the middle of nowhere and no one can find us.”

“And why is it so important that no one finds us?”

“Because I want you all to myself. I want us all to ourselves. I want nothing interfering with our love. I want nothing between us and God and nature.”

“Are you really serious about moving out of the city?”

“Serious as sin. And it will be a sin if we don’t make our escape from the madness that’s about to unfold. What do you say, dear? Will you run away with me?”

“You know I will.”