Song of the Day: Marvin Gaye “Trouble Man”
Marvin Gaye‘s brilliant soundtrack to the 1972 film, Trouble Man is very much a product of its time. With the commercial success of Isaac Hayes‘ work on Shaft and Curtis Mayfield‘s similar turn on Superfly in the early ’70s, an alliance emerged between movie studios and record labels began to realize the potential of tapping prominent soul and R&B musicians for movie soundtracks.
While many black artists of the time went on to score a number of so-called “blaxsploitation” films, Marvin Gaye‘s score for Trouble Man (which proved to be Gaye‘s sole outing as a soundtrack artist), proved to be highly unique, both within Gaye‘s discography and within the ’70s soundtrack genre as a whole. Rather than the typical funk and wah-wah guitar outing, Gaye delivered a lush and sophisticated orchestral-driven soundscape punctuated by a handful of deeply bluesy song.
“Trouble Man” which played over the end credits of the film features a blues shuffle, Gaye‘s gorgeous vocals, a vibes/ guitar/ piano groove and eventually subtlety working in some of the horn themes and string that had featured elsewhere on the soundtrack. This final song provides a good example of Gaye‘s genius ability of combining seemingly disparate stylistic influences. Some of the saxophone and trumpet arrangements are even slightly reminiscent of Gaye‘s fellow DC-native, Duke Ellington. Elsewhere the soundtrack is a sample-friendly combination of strings, moog synths, and funky drums.
The film itself is one of the better entries in the blaxsploitation genre: telling the story of a fixer, played by the indomitable veteran character actor Robert Hooks, who is hired to straighten out some crooks. Things, as they often do in these films, don’t go quite as planned. The film includes a startling and terrific surprise ending.