* Soul to soul: Gaye’s spirited singing and confessional lyrics have influenced nearly every current rhythm-and-blues singer, including R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo and Erykah Badu.
* The lowdown: This introspective set was recorded as part of Gaye’s divorce settlement with his first wife, Anna. She received his $305,000 advance plus the first $295,000 in royalties. Gaye intended to knock off a quickie album, but instead he made a probing work that charts the emotional history of a failed relationship, from infatuation (“I Met a Little Girl”) to bitterness and pain (“Anger”). What makes the album so affecting is how his loose, stream-of-consciousness lyrics capture the mixture of hurt, ambivalence, nostalgia and confusion that marks the end of a love affair. As he asks in a haunting tenor, “When did you stop loving me? / When did I stop loving you?”