Marvin re-emerged on the scene in part because of his brother's return from Vietnam. Marvin's beloved brother Frankie, whose voice is remarkably similar to Marvin's, was drafted into the conflict in 1964 and served until 1967. Frankie's firsthand accounts of the horrors of war moved Marvin to get back in the studio and begin work on what would become his greatest achievement; "What's Going On." At a time when Motown wanted carefree hits that would continue their run of commercially successful music, Marvin delivered his early sessions from this album, which featured complex subject matter and soul searching lyrics. It is rumored that Berry Gordy dismissed "What's Going On," as "the worst record I ever heard." Marvin stuck to his guns, however, and threatened to leave the label if Gordy did not release the album. Reluctantly, Gordy did release it, and the album proved Marvin right. The album yielded three Top Ten Billboard Hits in "What's Going On," "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)," and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), and remains one of the most seminal works of modern pop music. Marvin had taken a stand, and had won, releasing what many consider to be the first ever successful "concept album" in a pop world, as every song on the album remains in line with Gaye's theme of a world in decay.
Marvin's stand also proved to be successful in a business sense, as he was granted a $1 million dollar contract with Motown subsidiary Tamla Records, and given 100% total creative control over his future projects, a major step for musicians, especially Black musicians. Marvin packed up his things and moved to Los Angeles, where he began recording his next album, "Let's Get It On," which showed a complete departure from the Marvin that wrote "What's Going On," as the album was erotically charged and sensual in nature. The album's title track again shattered his previous record for sales, and "Let's Get It On" still receives major radio play today. Other hits on the album include "You Sure Love To Ball," and the ballad heavyweight, "Distant Lover," a staple of Lowrider slow jams for many a Boulevard date night.
My personal favorite Marvin album to ride to is called "I Want You," and was released in 1976. The grooves in this album are unmistakable, and the conga and Latin-percussion influence in this album adds the perfect beat for the lush keyboard arrangements and Marvin's exceptional vocal harmonizing abilities. "After the Dance (Vocal)" is my favorite cruising song, and the album also contains an instrumental of this song, with Marvin playing Jazz-like improvisations on a lead synthesizer. "Come Live With Me Angel," "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again," "Since I Had You, "and "Feel All My Love Inside" are all sure fire Boulevard bangers, as the mix down on these sessions also kept the bass and percussion very loud, and perfect for your Lowrider sound system. The album's erotic nature stems from Marvin's affair with a 17 year old named Janis Hunter, whom he would divorce his wife Anna Gordy for, and later marry.