Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
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Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday : Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On

The year is 1973 and Marvin Gaye was on top of the world. He was still basking in the success of his twelfth studio album Trouble Man, the soundtrack to the same titled 1972 Blaxploitation film. In addition, his eleventh studio album, the socially conscious What’s Going On from two years prior was still in rotation and he now had more creative control at his label, Motown. For his thirteenth studio album, Gaye found his way into the ever-evolving funk genre for the first time and would once again change music, as we know it.


Arriving in stores on August 28, 1973, Let’s Get It On promotion began with its same titled lead single. Co-written with producer Ed Townsend, “Let’s Get It On” was Gaye’s plea for sexual liberation. Per the linear notes of the album’s deluxe CD edition, when originally conceived by Townsend, who was fresh from a rehab facility for alcoholism, the song’s lyrics had more of a religious theme.


Gaye confidante Kenneth Stover changed some of the words around as a political song and Gaye recorded the version as written, but Townsend protested that the song was not a politically conscious song, but a song dedicated to love and sex.  Gaye and Townsend then collaborated on new lyrics and using the original backing tracks as recorded, Gaye transformed the song into an emotional centerpiece.


Gaye sings the song with an urging pleading that despite its numerous covers, has never been duplicated. “Come Get To This” was the album’s second single and finds Gaye crooning for his ladylove whom he misses. “You Sure Love to Ball” was the final single from Let’s Get It On.  While the first half of Let’s Get It On focused on subtle sexual hints, I’ve always felt that “You Sure Love To Ball”, with the love moans of a couple in the act of intimacy, doesn’t hold back with its frank nature as ball was a slang word for sex.


While Gaye released three singles from the project, the B-Sides to the single were just as popular and have had their share of covers over the years. “If I Should Die Tonight” eloquently finds Gaye singing about a woman he cannot have due to being in a relationship with someone else. “Just to Keep You Satisfied” finds Gaye revisiting a song from early writing days at Motown. Originally performed by Motown groups, The Monitors and later The Originals the track is a good closer to Let’s Get It On, as there are so many layers to the song. While the song is about heartbreak, Marvin sings the mess out of the song and gives anyone who has had a heartbreak that there is hope after that door closes. “Please Stay (Once You Go Away)” and “Keep Gettin It On” are also fine album tracks.


Clocking in with a run time of just under thirty-two minutes, fifty years later, Let’s Get It On is still a better album than some contemporary singers’ entire catalogs. Nearly every soul singer or musician who released a project after Let’s Get It On pulled something from it in terms of musical seduction.


Final Grade: A +


Let’s Get It On is available on all streaming platforms

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