Category: marvin gaye

On this day in music history: November 27, 1965 – “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on November 20, 1965. Written by Smokey Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore, Bobby Rogers and Marv Tarplin, it is the second chart topping single for the R&B vocalist dubbed “The Prince Of Motown”. The initial idea for the song comes from Miracles guitarist Tarplin who composes the melody and the songs’ signature guitar lick while on the Motortown Revue tour of England earlier in the year. He’ll play what he’s come up with to his band mates, who helps him finish writing the song. The basic track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on May 5, 1965, and features musical backing by The Funk Brothers and background vocals by the labels’ in-house backup singers The Andantes. Gaye overdubs his lead vocal one week later on May 12, 1965. Released on September 14, 1965, “Ain’t That Peculiar” quickly becomes another smash for Marvin Gaye, and is his second consecutive million selling single.

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On this day in music history: November 6, 1982 – “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 10 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on January 29, 1983. Written by Marvin Gaye, Odell Brown and David Ritz, it is the biggest hit for the legendary R&B singer, songwriter and producer. It marks the beginning of a major comeback for Gaye after being plagued by numerous personal problems, including the end of his second marriage and tax problems with the IRS. Living in Belgium at the time, the song is born out of a conversation that Gaye has with author David Ritz, who spots a book of graphic pornographic French cartoons on Gaye’s coffee table. Slightly aghast, Ritz tells the singer that he needs a “sexual healing”. Gaye, amused and intrigued by the phrase asks Ritz if he has any lyrical ideas he’d like to contribute. After the record is released in September of 1982, Ritz notices his name isn’t included in the songwriting credits, and has to sue for writing credit and a share of publishing royalties. The song is also significant as it is one of the first major hits to utilize the Roland TR-808 drum machine, primarily used only as a composing tool for songwriters when recording song demos (prior to the release of the record). His first major hit since “Got To Give It Up” five years before, “Sexual Healing” is a runaway smash on both the R&B and pop charts, winning Gaye the only two Grammy Awards of his career, for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male and Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1983. “Sexual Healing” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 6, 1971 – “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Marvin Gaye and James Nyx, it is the seventh chart topping single for the R&B music icon. Following the huge success of the single “What’s Going On” after its release in late January of 1971, Motown demands a full album to accompany it. Gaye quickly gets to work on the rest of the songs, writing both on his own and collaborating with close friends and associates around Motown including songwriter Al Cleveland, Four Tops member Renaldo “Obie” Benson, and even his wife Anna. Marvin also writes with songwriter James Nyx, who had originally had worked as a janitor and handy man at friend and former Moonglows band mate Harvey Fuqua’s Tri-Phi/Harvey record label in Detroit. Nyx eventually begin writing songs with Fuqua, then following him to Motown in 1963 when Tri-Phi and Harvey Records are absorbed by Motown. Nyx meets Marvin Gaye through Fuqua at this time and the trio begin writing together, though their material is shelved. Together, Gaye and Nyx write songs for The Originals (“Baby I’m For Real”, “The Bells”), including the single “We Can Make It Baby”. While working on songs for the “What’s Going On” album, the pair collaborate on three songs, “What’s Happening Brother?”, “God Is Love”, and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”. While the title track expresses anguish over problems affecting the world at large, most prominently the war still raging in Vietnam (at that time), the latter of those songs mediates on issues even closer to home. “Inner City Blues” puts into clear focus, the often dire and bleak conditions in major inner cities in America that many of its citizens are living under. The track is recorded in March of 1971 at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit with members of The Funk Brothers including Bob Babbitt (bass), Eddie “Bongo” Brown (congas), Robert White, Joe Messina (guitars), and Chet Forest (drums). Issued as the third and final single from “What’s Going On” in September of 1971, it follows its predecessors to the top of the R&B singles chart, and into the top ten on the pop singles chart. “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” becomes one of Marvin Gaye’s most popular and often covered songs, with versions recorded by Grover Washington, Jr. (the title track of his debut album on Motown’s Kudu imprint in 1972), Gil Scott-Heron, Maceo Parker, and Sarah Vaughan. It is also sampled by numerous artists including The D.O.C., A Tribe Called Quest, MC Solaar, Spice 1, Scarface, Ice Cube, Too Poetic, K-Solo, Janet Jackson, Ralph Tresvant, and Angela Winbush.

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On this day in music history: August 28, 1973 – “Let’s Get It On”, the twelfth album by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend, it is recorded at Motown Studio A and Golden World Studios ( Motown Studio B ) in Detroit, MI from June 1, 1970 – April 11, 1972 and Hitsville West Studios in Los Angeles, CA from February 1 – July 26, 1973. Recorded on and off during a period of over three years, during its creation it sees the Motown star struggling with various personal issues including writer’s block and the breakdown of his marriage to Anna Gordy Gaye (sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.). All of this coincides with Gaye renegotiating his contract with Motown following the success of “What’s Going On”, which make him the highest paid R&B recording artist in the music industry at the time, as well as being guaranteed full creative control of his work. The concept for “Let’s Get It On” is strongly influenced by a young woman named Janis Hunter who Gaye later marries and has two children with her. A huge commercial and critical success upon its release, the album cements his image as a sex symbol. It spins off three singles including “Come Get To This” (#3 R&B, #21 Pop), and the chart topping title track (#1 R&B and Pop). In 2001, Universal Music Group releases a 2CD Deluxe Edition of the album with the first disc containing a remastered version of the original album and outtakes. The second disc features more alternate takes and unreleased material associated with the production of the album. “Let’s Get It On” has been reissued multiple times as a limited release audiophile title. It is released as a DVD-A disc in 2004 by Universal Music Group’s Chronicles reissue division, with a new 5.1 multi-channel surround mix, remixed from the original 16-track multi-track session tapes.  In 2008, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissues the album as a high resolution hybrid SACD and 180g audiophile LP. And in 2015, Universal reissues the DVD-A, also making it available as a Blu-ray disc with the 5.1 multi-channel mix. The album is given a limited edition red vinyl pressing, for Record Store Day in 2018. The standard black vinyl issue, is the currently available release.  "Let’s Get It On" spends eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number two on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: August 14, 1971 – “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on August 21, 1971. Written and produced by Marvin Gaye, it is the sixth chart topping single for the Motown icon. After Motown Records finally relents and releases the single “What’s Going On” in January of 1971, after a nearly six month long stand off with Marvin Gaye over its commercial potential, the song is an immediate smash and Motown requests that Gaye record a full album quickly to accompany it. Keeping in with the socially conscious theme of the other songs, one of Gaye’s other concerns is the state of the environment. Along with the anti-war effort of the era, many people are dismayed how the large manufacturing and oil industries have been allowed to pollute the air and water largely unabated, and the need for it to change immediately. Marvin has all of this in mind as he writes what becomes “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”, written as plea to clean up the environment before it’s too late. The basic track for “Mercy Mercy Me” is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit in March of 1971, with Gaye on piano and mellotron, Chet Forest (drums), Bob Babbitt (bass), Robert White, Joe Messina (guitars), Jack Ashford (percussion), Johnny Griffith (celeste), Eddie “Bongo” Brown (congas), Eli Fountain (alto saxophone), and The Andantes (background vocals). David Van DePitte writes the string arrangement, with Gordon Staples conducting members of the Detroit Symphony, overdubbing the strings at another session held at Motown Studio B (Golden World) the same month. Released as the the second single from “What’s Going On” on June 10, 1971 with the non LP B-side “Sad Tomorrows” (recorded August, November 1969, September and November 1970), “Mercy Mercy Me” quickly follows its predecessor up the R&B and pop singles charts. The song becomes one of Marvin Gaye’s most popular and highly regarded works, being covered numerous times by artists including jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., Robert Palmer, and Boyz II Men.

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On this day in music history: July 23, 1962 – “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” by Marvin Gaye is released. Written by Marvin Gaye,  William “Mickey” Stevenson and George Gordy, it is the fifth single release for the Motown icon. Signed to Motown Records in early 1961, after label founder Berry Gordy, Jr. hears him playing piano during a Christmas party, Marvin Gaye begins recording his first album for the label. Initially uninterested in singing R&B, Gaye has his sights set on being a jazz and pop vocal crooner, like his idols Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Though Gordy is skeptical about the idea, but lets Gaye have his way. The resulting album “The Soulful Moods Of Marvin Gaye” is a commercial failure, and the singer finds himself back at square one. Gaye spends much of the next year working at Motown as a session drummer and songwriter, co-writing The Marvelettes hit “Beechwood 4-5789”. Coming to the realization that the only way he can breakthrough, is to write and record a song fitting into Motown’s R&B/Pop crossover sound. Collaborating with staff producer Mickey Stevenson and Gordy’s brother George, the trio write “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow”, a wry nod to Gaye’s sometimes moody disposition. Playing some of the chord changes he’s come up to Berry, Marvin clashes with the Motown chief who suggests that he “do something else” with the melody. Initially very resistant to Gordy’s comment, Gaye relents and makes changes. The track is recorded Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on June 29, 1962, with The Funk Brothers providing musical support. Also on the session are Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, Rosalind Ashford and Gloria Williams on background vocals. Initially known as The Del-Phis, right before “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow is released, the quartet change their name to The Vandellas, and soon after Martha & The Vandellas. Gaye’s single marks the groups recording debut and soon leads to Martha Reeves moving from working as a secretary in Motown’s office, to her and the group becoming recording artists themselves. Once "Stubborn” is completed, the consensus by all involved is that the record is destined to be a hit. “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” peaks at #8 on the Billboard R&B singles chart on November 3, 1962 and #46 on the Hot 100 on December 1, 1962, marking Marvin Gaye’s debut on both charts. Launching his legendary career and becoming one of many signature songs for the singer, Marvin himself makes reference to the song on other occasions in later years, on “Include Me In Your Life” on the duet album “Diana & Marvin” with Diana Ross, and on his 1978 album “Here My Dear”.

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On this day in music history: June 19, 1974 – “Marvin Gaye Live!”, the second live album (fifteenth release overall) by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, CA on January 4, 1974. Following the huge commercial and critical success of the “Let’s Get It On” album, Gaye embarks on a major US tour in support of it. Though he has to overcome often paralyzing stage fright that has kept him from performing in front of a live audience for several years. Appearing in front of a sold out crowd of over 14,000 cheering fans at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the electric atmosphere of the show is captured on the released album. The concerts centerpiece is his rendition of “Distant Lover”, which creates such a sensation on R&B radio stations that Motown release an edited version of the six minute plus song as a single (#15 R&B, #28 Pop). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1998, also being reissued as a limited edition SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2009, in a mini-LP sleeve replicating the original album package. “Marvin Gaye Live!” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number eight on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 7, 1969 – “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on June 28, 1969. Written by Norman Whitfield, Janie Bradford and Barrett Strong, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for “The Prince of Motown”. Former Motown secretary turned staff songwriter Janie Bradford, co-author of the early Motown classic “Money (That’s What I Want)”, comes up with the initial idea for “Too Busy”, penning most of the songs lyrics. She in turn shows what she’s written to songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield and his writing partner Barrett Strong, who write the music and finish the lyrics. The song is originally recorded by The Temptations in 1966 on their album “Gettin’ Ready” with Eddie Kendricks on lead vocals. Recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit, the basic track featuring musical backing by The Funk Brothers is cut on February 14, 1969, with Marvin Gaye overdubbing his lead vocal on two weeks later on February 28, 1969. The labels in-house background vocalists The Andantes record their vocals on the track on March 11, 1969, and the strings are overdubbed on March 15, 1969. Released on April 2, 1969, Gaye’s version is the follow up to his smash “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” which had sold over four million copies, becoming Motown’s biggest single to date. Issued as the first single from Gaye’s ninth studio album “M.P.G.”, “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” is an immediate smash. Quickly racing up the pop and R&B charts, it sells nearly two million copies in the US alone. The original single release of “Too Busy” is backed with the song “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”. Though it does not chart, it becomes a fan favorite, and is covered by British blue eyed soul singer Paul Young in 1983. Young’s version spends three weeks at number one on the UK singles chart in July and August of 1983, also becoming his first US chart entry, peaking at number seventy in October of 1983.

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On this day in music history: May 29, 1976 – “I Want You” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #15 on the Hot 100 on June 26, 1976. Written by Leon Ware and Arthur “T-Boy” Ross (younger brother of singer Diana Ross), it is the ninth R&B chart topper and thirty first Top 40 pop single for the Motown superstar. The song is originally intended for Leon Ware’s “Musical Massage” album, but Motown founder Berry Gordy persuades him to give the song to Gaye, who at the time is suffering a severe bout of writer’s block since completing the “Let’s Get It On” album three years before. Marvin finds inspiration in the song through his relationship with Janis Hunter, who becomes his second wife. Issued as the first single and title track from Gaye’s thirteenth studio album, it returns him to the summit for the first time since “Let’s Get It On” nearly three years before. Motown issues promotional 45 pressings of the single on clear gold vinyl, also containing a unique mono mix of the song on the B-side (for AM radio play), that is released as a bonus track on the Deluxe Edition of the “I Want You” album in 2003.

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On this day in music history: May 22, 1965 – “I’ll Be Doggone” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on May 15, 1965. Written by William “Smokey” Robinson, Warren “Pete” Moore and Marv Tarplin, it is the first R&B chart topper for Motown superstar. After working mostly with Mickey Stevenson or Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, Marvin Gaye is paired with Smokey Robinson for the first time in early 1965. Miracles guitarist Marv Tarplin comes up with the basic structure of the song including its hook, while Robinson and Moore write the lyrics. The track is cut at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on January 21, 1965, and features The Funk Brothers playing on the rhythm track. Gaye record his vocals four days after the initial tracking session on January 25, 1965, with The Miracles themselves providing the background vocals along with Motown’s in-house background vocal group The Andantes. The strings, provided by members of the Detroit Symphony are overdubbed on January 29, 1965. Released on February 26, 1965, it quickly rises up the R&B and pop singles charts. “I’ll Be Doggone” is Marvin Gaye’s first million selling single and the first of thirteen R&B chart toppers he has over the next eighteen years.

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