My favorite songs: “Sanctified Lady”

I recently had a moment of reckoning with Marvin Gaye’s “Sanctified Lady.” I was driving north up the California coast on US 1, from Santa Cruz (which I call home) to San Francisco (where I lived for 9 years and still have friends). The windows were down, this song was cranked, I was singing along and occasionally laughing — because the song’s lyrics are in many ways ridiculous. And then the chorus comes in, after the second (?) bridge, and starts singing about all-caps “JESUS!” Because Marvin wants a woman who’s a freak in the sheets (he sings the title phrase as “sanctified pussy” numerous times throughout the song) but also really, really loves Jesus. No: JESUS!

I laughed aloud and said something along the lines of, “Marvin, mister, you had some issues!” But then I stopped myself, almost immediately, and said: waitadamnminute. I’m a churchgoing freak in the sheets, so why can’t (couldn’t) Marvin openly call for that, albeit on a much more public scale? (To be fair, “Lady” was an outtake from the Midnight Love sessions, so maybe he didn’t intend for it to be heard?) (OTOH, who are we kidding?)

I needed to hear that message, I needed to call myself on that shit. And I especially needed to do so in the service of this sensational, body-rockin’ anthem. I love the ur-cheesy simple synths that Marvin’s brother-in-law Gordon Banks added, I love the silly vocoder at the song’s start, and bringing in the Waters to do the backing vocals is genius. Semi-minimalist ’80s R&B? I’m here for that all day. And when you add in that it’s Marvin Gaye singing about how much he wants a “girl” to “suck,” etc., and to be a “good ol’ church girl”? I mean, c’mon, how obviously great does this song have to be? Now, I just need to find a guy with the same qualifications for me as Marvin had for his ladies…

About thomasinskeep

I write about music.
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