Gaye grew up physically and emotionally abused by his minister father, who instilled in the young man a deeply troublesome view of sex that contributed to bouts of impotence. Not exactly the mental image you get of the man who sang ‘Let’s Get It On’ and the rest of the slow-funk love jams featured on this album.
Another famous copyright infringement case is far less clear-cut and far more troubling than the ‘My Sweet Lord’ example — the claim that Robin Thicke’s 2013 ‘Blurred Lines’ borrows too heavily from Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’
The backstory here is a strange one, and one with a lot of potential to shake up the music industry. That’s because ‘Blurred Lines’ didn’t copy the melody of the Gaye song or sample it directly, but rather mirrored the general mood and feel of the track.
This week, I’ll feature tracks from five celebrated 1971 albums I don’t know very well. Some I’ve heard before, some I’m hearing for the very first time. They might not have cracked my own top ten list, but they all help round out the musical portrait of 1971.
A little background, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The original 1967 version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was a top twenty hit. According to record producers, Terrell was a little nervous and intimidated during recording because she hadn’t rehearsed the lyrics. Terrell recorded her vocals alone with producers Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, who added Gaye’s vocal at a later date. “Ain’t No Mountain” peaked at number nineteen on the Billboard pop charts, and went to number three on the R&B charts.
The thing I love best about this, the ultimate booty call song, is that in the middle of nearly 5 minutes of pleading and pressuring this woman to have sex with him, Marvin Gaye sings these lines: “I ain’t gonna worry, no, I ain’t gonna push, I won’t push you, baby.” Gee, imagine what it would sound like if he was gonna push her!
To honor the unabashed carnal desire of ‘Let’s Get it On,’ I will now present the poetic stylings of YouTube commenters who have chimed in on this Marvin Gaye classic.
One of my musical pet peeves is songs about current events, particularly protest songs. Even worse are songs that name-drop political figures.
A classic example, in an otherwise good song, is this verse from Sting’s ‘They Dance Alone’:
You’ve sown a bitter crop
It’s foreign money that supports you
One day the money’s going to stop
Hey Sting… spare me.
Like many young suburban white people, my first exposure to these great Motown songs came via The Big Chill soundtrack. That album, which went 6X platinum, was less a document of the film than a Motown greatest hits collection.
These songs stirred the memories of the college friends reunited in that film and likely did the same for countless boomers who watched the film then ran out to buy the soundtrack. For me, too young at the time for some of the film’s more adult moments and likely to be bored by it anyway, I was just thrilled to discover such great new music.