Jan details her days with Gaye when they spent time in the singer’s hideaway in Topanga Canyon during the summer of 1973 in her upcoming memoir “After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye.” As noted by Billboard, Gaye was working on his classic album “Let’s Get It On” and still legally wed to Berry Gordy’s sister Anna Gordy when he met Jan, a 17-year-old student living in foster care, in 1973.
Jan, the daughter of jazz singer Slim Gaillard, and Gaye quickly fell in love and married before divorcing in 1981. She is noted today for being among those who prevailed with Gaye’s three children in the “Blurred Lines” copyright lawsuit over the entertainer’s hit “Got to Give It Up,” a song she sang back up vocals on.
In the David Ritz co-written “After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye,” Jan remembers a happy period in Topanga Canyon, where “time stood still and love deepened.” Nevertheless, a great relationship still has its share of complications.
The following is an excerpt of Jan Gaye’s “After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye,” via Billboard:
From his perch on top of the world, Marvin was tired of seeking. He wanted to be sought. After the triumph of What’s Going On, he had worked for years to develop a follow-up that would create as great a furor. He had accomplished just that with Let’s Get It On. Yet rather than welcome the accompanying acclaim, he ran from it.
I couldn’t help but wonder if he was running from himself. Even though I remained in awe of his talent, I had seen that his insecurities, hidden under a veneer of cool, were potent. Those insecurities alarmed me. While Marvin was gratified that his new album was an immediate hit, he worried that his fans would lose interest in him. He also worried that he would have to tour. Performing in public was something he dreaded. He had long suffered from stage fright.
I didn’t like seeing Marvin scared. I didn’t like seeing him as anything but perfect. Yet every day his imperfections, in tandem with his seductive charms, became more obvious. This was especially true when we escaped to the rural retreat he called our romantic paradise.
Topanga Canyon, across Highway 1 from the Pacific Ocean, was less than an hour’s drive from Mid-City L.A., but a world away. It was that part of the Santa Monica mountain range that, only a few years earlier, had been home to a large colony of hippies, including the Charles Manson family. Marvin’s rustic mountaintop A-frame home was all pinewood and glass. It smelled fresh and clean. Its remote location didn’t bother me in the least. In fact, it excited me. I’d have Marvin all to myself.
There were blissful evenings by the wood-burning stove with Marvin at his little portable keyboard. There were long and languorous lovemaking sessions in every part of the house — on the living room rug, in the loft, in the kitchen, outside on the balcony, under the stars above. Love deepened. The real world was remote, but the real world never stopped calling. As “Let’s Get It On” became one of the fastest-selling hits in history, every DJ in the country wanted Marvin on his show. Motown execs were telling him that if he toured, sales of the record would quadruple. But Marvin said no. No interviews, no tours.
“I’m an artist,” he told me. “I’m not made for show business. I am a highly sensitive person and you, dear, are all I need to be happy.”
I cherished his words. I wanted this time to last forever. I wanted to believe that we would, in fact, live out our lives in Topanga Canyon, free of the world’s worries and pressures. That belief, though, couldn’t last for long.
Observing Marvin at close range, I saw that his insecurity was the flip side of his egomania. There were days when he swore he would no longer perform again because he doubted his ability to sing before a live audience. On other days he unhesitatingly said that he wanted to be remembered as the greatest singer in the world. The world offered prizes that Marvin’s ego couldn’t resist. One was the promise of a Rolling Stone cover story.
Marvin drove the jeep down the mountain to fetch the reporter and the photographer. When they returned, we all got stoned. Marvin had never been more charming. He spoke of the mysterious nature of his father’s esoteric Christian church. He talked about being able to sense the spirit in the song of a bird, an ocean breeze, even a raindrop. Another joint was rolled. The subject switched to sex. I wondered what he would say.
He admitted that when it came to sex he was a fantasy person. When asked if all his fantasies had come true, he turned coy. He wondered about the thin line between an exciting fantasy and an exciting perversity. He wondered if sex, given willing participants, should ever be considered perverse.
I was intrigued by Marvin’s remarks about sex. The sex between us, while always exciting, had started to take a different turn. Marvin had introduced into the mix a certain kinkiness that, although not exactly my style, was something I was willing to entertain. Not to do so would only anger Marvin. I went along with his program, which, from time to time, involved fantasies of me with other women.
These variations did, in fact, bring me new pleasures. The omnipresence of pot and the increasing use of cocaine facilitated my willingness and widened my enjoyment. At times I feared that I was falling down a slippery slope but quickly dismissed such anxieties. “No need to be uptight,” Marvin urged. “If it feels good, that means it is good.”
Meanwhile, Motown never stopped calling with the same messages: Your album’s a smash; your fans are dying to see you, hear you, show you their devotion. How can you resist their love? How long can you hide out?
Promoters found their way through the canyon to Marvin’s door with extravagant offers. “You’ll be returning to the stage a conquering hero,” they promised him. He lit a joint, he smiled, he pondered, and then he refused. But they refused his refusals and ultimately came back with more money, more perks, more ways to flatter his ego. Finally he succumbed. During the late summer of 1973, he committed to playing one concert and one concert only, at the Oakland Coliseum in November. “Maybe you’ll like getting back in the ring,” I said.
Rear MORE of this excerpt at Billboard.
EUR BONUS COVERAGE: Marvin Gaye sings “After the Dance” and has a dilemma on his hands when 2 ladies show up to dance with him. Watch: