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Singer Aloe Blacc reflects on Marvin Gaye and his music

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Singer Aloe Blacc reflects on Marvin Gaye and his music
Aloe Blacc (Photo: Courtesy of Berklee College of Music)

Inspired by artists Al Green, Sam Cooke and Bill Withers, singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc is one of a handful of artists paying tribute to Marvin Gaye and his album, Vulnerable, a passion project for Gaye in which he recorded the songs, Why Did I Choose You?, She Needs Me, Funny Not Much and many more, over a 10-year period beginning in the late 1960s.

“For Marvin Gaye, Vulnerable is one of his most coveted and special albums, Blacc said. “The world really knows ‘What’s Going On?’ and the political achievement on that album and his seminal work. He always wanted to be a crooner. He always loved the Nat King Coles and the Frank Sinatras but nobody really cared to hear that from him. So, it was a special album for him. He got a chance to do what he always wanted to do.”

Revive Music Group, in collaboration with the Berklee College of Music, will present the first live performance of Vulnerable in its entirety alongside Marvin Gaye’s popular and lesser known compositions, as part of the school’s Signature Music Series. The concert will take place this Thursday evening (Dec. 4) at the Berklee Performance Center.

Joining Blacc on stage will be singer/songwriter/producer Bilal, jazz vocalist Chris Turner, composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, the Berklee Neo-Soul Ensemble and the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra.

A talented singer and songwriter in his own right, Aloe skyrocketed to the top of the charts with Wake Me Up, which he co-wrote with Swedish DJ Avicii, and the single The Man. With a music sensibility that harkens back to the soulfulness of the 1970s, Aloe’s songs are often crafted with political and social commentary as in the song I Need A Dollar. He sings “I had a job but the boss man let me go/‘I’m sorry but I won’t be needing your help no more,’ Please, mister boss man, I need this job more than you know/But he gave me my last paycheck and he sent me on out the door.”

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson

His songs combine both the music and the message much like Marvin Gaye’s did. Of his upcoming performance Aloe is hoping to connect with the audience in a much more intimate level.

“What I hope to take away from the experience, from the music, is a deeper and richer understanding of how to perform in this symphonic orchestrated world,” he said.

And, as an admirer of Gaye, he has additional hopes.

“I’m hoping that I can really channel the sincere emotions that he had in the songs and convey them while I’m on stage and not just mimic, you know? That’s the challenge,” he said. “It’s really, really feeling what he was saying and sharing that so the audience can feel it more than hear it.”

The Berklee Performance Center hosts Vulnerable: A Marvin Gaye Tribute this Thursday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Tickets: $28 and $38 and are available at berkleebpc.com, or at the Berklee Performance Center Box Office.