DAR Classic Albums: Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On

By @TrueGodImmortal 

1. Let's Get It On 
2. Please Stay (Once You Go Away)
3. If I Should Die Tonight
4. Keep Gettin It On 
5. Come Get To This
6. Distant Lover
7. You Sure Love To Ball
8. Just To Keep You Satisfied

There are many albums in this world that stand the test of the time. For Marvin Gaye, he is one of the rare artists who has multiple albums that can be considered the greatest album of all time. While some criticized and disliked his heartfelt album "Here, My Dear", in most circles, it is regarded as a timeless classic, the result of a divorce that took its obvious toll on Marvin mentally, physically and artistically. I've gone on record to say that Marvin is my all time favorite artist and I think he is the greatest. The reason why is because his music was reflective of where he was in life at the time. It was genuine. It was raw. It was honest. Socially aware at times, sexual at moments, heartbroken in spurts, but always true to where he was personally. It is the mark of a great artist and something I've put forth in my own personal music. Marvin took his emotions, his fears, his anger and bottled them up into an album. He would display a certain level or vulnerability on "I Want You", all while staying true to his increasing sex symbol status and honest nature as an artist. He would bring forth a more disco funk sound to his 1980s albums "In My Lifetime" and "Midnight Love" before his unfortunate death. His work on the "Trouble Man" soundtrack is still loved and revered to this day and with good reason. However, for many, the highest level of Marvin's genius and greatness can be traced to "What's Going On", his 1971 classic that is regarded in many circles as the best album ever, or at least in the top 10. The social awareness, activism, and hint of revolution in that album make it one of my top 10 albums of all time personally, but it's not the only Marvin album in my top 10. If you have "What's Going On" as your top Marvin album, I think you should put an asterisk beside it, because to me, his 1973 release "Let's Get It On" is right there with it in quality. 

What makes "Let's Get It On" so special? Well, after the release of his social breakthrough album in "What's Going On" and the soundtrack to "Trouble Man", Marvin took a different route and went into a more seductive and smooth role as an artist with this project. In the 60s, Marvin was more so known for his duets with beautiful female singers, high energy ballads, and your typical love songs for the era. He had carved out a niche for himself with "What's Going On" and saw fit to change his direction from simply being the social aware, God-fearing activist to a man with more dimensions and a knack for bedroom anthems. He had always been known for songs about love and relationships with his covers and duets, but we hadn't quite seen Marvin in this newer light. The more mature, polished, yet slightly aggressive Marvin would present what many publications and outlets feel is one of the top 100 albums of all time (it's made a ton of lists from respected magazines and websites). 

The album starts with the knocking title track, a flawless execution of seduction mixed with a slight twist of comedy(mostly unintentional). Marvin and that familiar opening of the song welcome us to this listening experience, as he exclaims that he's been really trying to hold back the feeling of wanting to make love to his woman. The song essentially is all about that tension you have with a lady that's been building and building up. Once it reaches the highest level of tension and the feeling is too strong to control, Marvin sings to his woman that they should give in to temptation and desire, and get it on. 

"And givin' yourself to me can never be wrong
If the love is true, oh baby"

These lyrics drive home Marvin's point, but the song takes a comedic turn at the end as Marvin goes from telling his woman that he won't rush or push her to do it, but he's begging her as the song comes to an end, or as he puts it, "threatening you baby, I want to get it on". The threat is just a simple adlib near the end, but it adds a small bit if unintentional comedy to what is likely the most infamous bedroom anthem of all time. The production here is boisterous, with the drums and melody carrying us from one pace to the next. It's a great introduction to this album. Marvin follows this up with the soulful "Please Stay", as he asks his lady to not leave him. There's no sign of true strife in the relationship via the lyrics, as it doesn't mention Marvin doing his woman wrong or cheating, it just seems as if Marvin is a bit insecure and past relationships have him nervous about the future of this one. While on the surface, this seems like your normal "baby please don't go" song, Marvin and the simplistic lyrics give a hint to something a bit deeper. Check the lyrics:

"I won't be able to sleep peacefully
In bed without you beside me darlin', darlin anymore/
No sugar, no I won't be warm and secure/
Oh baby baby baby, like I was before/
Oh baby"

"I'll just lie tossin' and turnin'
Tossin' and turnin', tossin' and turnin'
All night long/
Scared that if I closed my eyes
When I got ready to wake up
I might find you gone/"

This song works beautifully in my opinion, and takes us from the seductive and aggressive Marvin right to the slightly insecure and emotional Marvin in just seconds. Marvin hits us with "If I Should Die Tonight", which is probably the strongest love song I've ever heard. Marvin tells his woman that if he passes away, he wouldn't be sad because he's had the joy of loving her and being with her. The reason that Marvin is my all time favorite artist can be found within this song. His knack for honesty, raw emotion and making his music feel so genuine shines through here. The lyrics tell a story of their own:

"Oooh, oh, I'm thankful that you're lovin' me
My one desire/
Is to love you 'til
I'm no longer here and never tired/
Love has been so good to me
I'm so thankful"

"Oooh, oh, how many eyes
Have seen their dream
How many arms
Have felt their dream
How many hearts, oh darlin'
Have felt their world stand still
Oh Lord!"

The song works very well to drive home the point of the strength and happiness Marvin feels in this love. If you bought the actual vinyl record of this album, you'd know that the end of Side A comes with what feels like the sequel to the title track, with "Keep Gettin It On". This is probably my least favorite song on the album, but it still is a formidable song and a fitting end to this part of the saga of the album. The sequencing here works beautifully as Marvin started Side A with the title track and ends it with the sequel of the title track so to speak. As we make our way to Side B of this album, we kick it off with what I consider one of his most underrated songs ever "Come Get To This". 

"Come Get To This" is a bit more upbeat than the rest of the album and displays glorious harmonies and a truly amazing horn arrangement to back the drums as well. Marvin speaks directly to his lady, or perhaps a lady of the past that's been long gone, and he wants her back. Starting off Side B with this track truly was genius in essence, and I wouldn't realize the significance of it until a little later on in the album (wait for it). The lyrics that start off "Come Get To This" are just so smooth and fluid as well. Check them out:

"Girl, you've been gone away a real long time
Now I really went out of my mind
I miss your lovin' when you left, baby you did
Ah baby, come here, let me caress you
Ah ah baby let us, ah tell me what you missed
Come here, sugar, and get to this
Ah baby, I want you here
I want to do something freaky to you
I want to feel what I've felt long
Ah baby, come get to this"

The opening begins with Marvin singing his soul out before the drums drop in, and it is the perfect buildup. After Marvin begs his old flame to come back to him, he deals with the effect of not getting that love back in what is the best song on this album and possibly his greatest song ever "Distant Lover". There aren't enough words to express the level of artistic genius and the beautiful sound this song presents. The opening is now iconic, as the first few seconds leads right into Marvin smoothly singing "Distant Lover... Lover..", coupled with the amazing background vocals. I honestly can just sit back and play this song 3 or 4 times in a row every time it comes on. It is the perfect follow up to "Come Get To This", and in some ways, it's like the aftermath of it, as the woman Marvin sung to on the previous song is even more distant to him now. The lyrics tell a story:

"Distant lover, lover
So many miles away
Heaven knows that I long for you

Every night, every night
And sometimes I yearn
Through the day

Distant lover
You should think about me
And say a prayer for me

Please, please baby
Think about me sometimes
Think about me here
Here in misery, misery"

Marvin reflects and pleads to her to give him some thought and at least show him that she still cares. He gets even more reflective and somber as it continues on, wondering where it all could have went wrong and the lyrics progress as he goes along:

"As I reminisce, oh baby
Through our joyful summer together/
The promises we made
All the daily letters/"

Then, all of a sudden
Everything seemed to explode/
Now, I gaze out my window
Sugar, down a lonesome road/"

Distant lover
Sugar, how can you treat my heart
So mean and cruel?
Sugar, sugar"

Right at this moment, Marvin begins to lose his cool, and the vulnerability he displays is even better and he closes the song out with his most emotional moment of the song. The way he delivers these lyrics and the pain that you can hear in his voice makes this amazing to listen to. What would read like simple lyrics are delivered in such a way that you sympathize with Marvin, you feel his pain. You feel like you understand all his hurt, like you're right there with him. 

"Oh baby, don't go
Please, come back baby
Somethin' I wanna say
When you left you took all of me with you

My Lord I wonder
Do you wanna hear me scream, plead
And please, please, oh please baby
Come back and hold me, girl
Baby please, please"

"Distant Lover" is one of his most vulnerable songs ever, and in essence, that's what makes it so great. The vulnerability. While he can play the role of sex symbol, the role of the cool cat, and the role of the social activist, Marvin was at his best singing his pain and making you feel what he was going through. No song other than "Distant Lover" displays this. It is his greatest moment to me as an artist and the song is likely the biggest or one of the biggest gems in his catalog. After this, Marvin takes a moment to get seductive again on the laid back "You Sure Love To Ball". The song is smooth, but what makes it so special is the production. Marvin's silky voice is always great, and it works well here, but that instrumental is absolutely amazing. Not to be outdone by his production, Marvin keeps his vocals at a smooth pace, making this a very nice transition from "Distant Lover" and back into seduction mode. 

However, the moment of seduction is only fleeting because Marvin closes out the album with one of his most heartbreaking moments on "Just To Keep You Satisfied". For any man that went through a breakup, this song is like an anthem of sorts. It is soul stirring with the production and background vocals, but Marvin goes from silky voiced in the beginning to pure emotion and hurt to understanding and hesitant well wishes at the end. It's one of the amazing progressions in a song I've ever heard. First, Marvin is trying to make sense of it all:

"You were my wife, my life, my hopes and dreams
For you to understand what this means, I shall explain
I stood all the jealousy, all the bitchin' too
Yes, I'd forget it all once in bed with you
Ooo darling how could we end up like this?
Oh baby let me reminisce"

After he attempts to make sense of it all, he expresses the pain he went through dealing with the breakup:

"Oh and when we, woo, stopped the hands of time
You set my soul on fire, my one desire
Was to love you and think of you with pride
And keep you satisfied, oh baby oh baby
We could not bear the mental strain
Leave you, I never meant to
Now you see how much you hurt me"

Then, in a last minute epiphany so to speak, Marvin makes sense and comes to grips with the reality and ponders if he possibly could reconnect with her in the future, before realizing that it is probably just a distant dream:

"But if you ever need me, I'll be by your side
Though the many happy times we had
Can really never outweigh the bad
Oh I'll never love nobody like I loved you baby

Now it's time for us to say farewell, farewell my darlin'
Maybe we'll meet down the line
It's too late for you and me, it's too late for you and I
Much too late for you to cry
It's too late for you and me, much too late for you and I
It's too late for you and me, much too late for you to cry baby
Ah we tried, God knows we tried
Now it's too late to live and love and ah it's too late baby
It's too late for you and me, much too late for you to cry
Oh oh ohhh it's much too late"

This is the perfect end to the album, as it sums up the entire album in one song essentially. Marvin started his album in bliss, first trying to get beyond the tension of early love and make love to his woman, then being in bliss with her appreciating the love, before there's a break in their bond. As the album reached the end, it was evident, the honeymoon phase was over, the relationship had begun to fall apart. The sequencing makes this album so perfect to me. It's a journey. Marvin took us on a journey. My only gripe about the album is that he didn't include some of the other songs from these sessions like "Symphony", but it wouldn't have fit the narrative here. Regardless, the album is perfection and a classic. It stands as one of the best albums of all time, and one of his greatest, if not his greatest. 



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