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Marvin Gaye – Top 10 songs

marvin gaye

Article by Bongoloid_Boy

Marvin Gaye – The Prince of Soul

Born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984
Shot dead by his own father, Marvin Gay Sr. who beat him throughout his childhood.
Kicked out of home by his father, Marvin enlisted in the Air Force but then faked mental illness to get discharged.
He sang backing on Chuck Berry’s Almost Grown, and played session drums for The Miracles.

1. This Love Starved Heart Of Mine – 1965

Never given an official release until 1994 on Motown, this rip-roaring gem of a track, easily my favourite Marvin number, didn’t get a single release, or even appear on LP when recorded.
Written by Kay and Helen Lewis. Produced by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol
Background vocals by the Andantes (prolific female sessions group for the Motown record label during the 1960s. Composed of Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps). Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and/or the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

2. How Can I Forget – 1969

This one’s a cover, originally by The Temptations, but I prefer Marvin’s uptempo funky version with those horns

3. Chained – recorded 1967 released 1968

Written & produced by Frank Wilson, backing vocals by The Originals

4. California Soul with Tammi Terrell – recorded 1969 released 1970

Written by husband & wife songwriting team Ashford & Simpson – Nickolas & Valerie – (see Bourgié Bourgié on page 4: Music of the 1970s)
This version was recorded in 1967 during Terrells physical decline (she collapsed into Gaye’s arms as the two performed at a concert at Hampden–Sydney College on October 14, 1967 suffering from a brain tumor) and released after her death aged 24, on their last duet LP Easy.
The rumour has always been (thanks to claims by Gaye himself) that the vocals on this tune (and many tunes recorded during this period) were not in fact Terrell, but actually Valerie Simpson (something that Simpson herself has denied)
I also rather like this bouncy breakbeat remix A Skillz did in 2011;

5. Abraham , Martin, John – 1968

Marvin Gaye’s cover became a top-ten hit (#9) in the UK in 1970. Gaye’s version was never released in the U.S. as a single but was featured on his 1970 album, That’s the Way Love Is, and was one of his first experiments with social messages in his music which would culminate in his legendary 1971 album, What’s Going On.
Written by Dick Holler and first recorded by Dion. It is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. It was written in response to the assassinations of King and the younger Kennedy in April and June 1968

6. What’s Going On – 1971

Released in 1971 on the Motown subsidiary, Tamla. Originally inspired by a police brutality incident witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, the song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye and produced by Gaye himself.

7. Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology) – 1971

Again from his classic 1971 album ‘What’s Going On’ featuring Gaye playing piano, strings conducted by Paul Riser, multi-tracking vocals from Gaye, the instrumentals provided by The Funk Brothers and a leading sax solo by Wild Bill Moore.

8. Let’s Get It On – 1973

The ultimate ‘gettin jiggy’ tune?
Recorded on March 22, 1973, at Hitsville West in Los Angeles, California. The song features romantic and sexual lyricism and funk instrumentation by The Funk Brothers. The title track of Gaye’s landmark 1973 album of the same name; it was written by Marvin Gaye and producer Ed Townsend.
During the time of the recording of the song and its subsequent album of the same name, Marvin had befriended the family of jazz guitarist Slim Gaillard and had become smitten with Gaillard’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Janis Hunter. A widely reported story has been told that Hunter was in the studio when Gaye recorded the song at the recording booth. Gaye and Hunter were said to be smitten with each other and, within months, Gaye and Hunter began dating. Hunter would become Gaye’s live-in lover by 1974. Their relationship would produce two children and a 1977 marriage.

9. I Heard It Through The Grapevine – 1968

Funk version recorded Live at Montreux Jazz Festival 1980;

Original version 1968;

Norman Whitfield (co-writer with Barrett Strong) recorded the song with Marvin Gaye over five sessions, the first on February 3, 1967, and the final one on April 10, 1967. Recordings of this version took more than a month due to Whitfield overdubbing Gaye’s vocals with that of the Andantes’ background vocals, mixing in several tracks featuring the Funk Brothers on the rhythm track, and adding the string section from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with an arrangement by Paul Riser.
The mixture of Gaye’s raspy vocals and the Andantes’ sweeter harmonies, made Whitfield confident that he had a hit; however, despite approval from Motown’s Quality Control Department, Motown’s owner Berry Gordy blocked its single release, preferring to release Gladys Knight’s slightly later uptempo arrangement.
But after featuring on Marvin’s 1968 album In The Groove it finally got a single release in October 1968, it went on to the top the Billboard Pop Singles chart for seven weeks from December 1968 to January 1969 and became for a time the biggest hit single on the Motown label (Tamla).

10. Sexual Healing – 1982

Kygo Remix 2013;

His first single on Columbia since his exit from long-term label Motown earlier in the year, following the release of the In Our Lifetime album the previous year.
People magazine described it as “America’s hottest pop-culture turn-on since Olivia Newton-John suggested she wanted to get ‘Physical’.”

Original version 1982;

Soul Asylum – Sexual Healing 1993 for the AIDS charity compilation No Alternative;


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