Turn It On Again: Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’

Marvin Gaye in 1973
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Jim Britt/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

If there were ever a perfect melding of subject and singer in popular music, circa 1973, it would be sex and Marvin Gaye. Yes, he had shown his social consciousness with What’s Going On, a record of uncommon depth and intelligence. But not long after that high water mark, he turned his attention away from matters of social justice, focusing instead on matters of the libido.

He certainly had the right mindset for the topic at hand. “I contend that SEX IS SEX and LOVE IS LOVE,” he wrote in the liner notes to 1973’s Let’s Get It On. “When combined, they work well together, if two people are of about the same mind. But they are really two discrete needs and should be treated as such...Have your sex, it can be exciting, if you're lucky. I hope the music that I present here makes you lucky.”

And then he addressed that philosophy in song:

READ MORE: Hot Just Like An Oven: Five Sensual Marvin Gaye Jams

“Let’s Get It On”: The classic No. 1 hit, the ultimate come-on, the sexiest invitation ever - “Let’s Get It On” is all this and more. It’s remarkable how a call to lovemaking has become so ubiquitous in our culture - you hear it in movies and in TV commercials, for everything from blue jeans to restaurants to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (It’s hard to imagine Marvin Gaye stepping up to the studio mic, thinking, “This will make a good candy commercial!”) It’s still just fine for its original purpose, too - the beckoning for some serious getting down.

“If I Should Die Tonight”: A man is so in love with a woman, he would gladly give up his life if he could just make love to her. That’s intense stuff, but the way Gaye wraps his voice so tightly around the words, you can hear what it sounds like to feel that much desire, to really mean it.

“Come Get to This”: She was gone for a while, but now she’s back, and there’s a whole lot of time to make up for. He tells her this, too - he wants to “get freaky” with her, to “blow [her] mind”; he notes she’s “still sweet as morning rain.” Yes, she’s back, and he’s had that evening circled on his calendar for quite a while.

“You Sure Love to Ball”: There’s really not much more to say here - the title tells you everything the song’s about. Cool sax solo, too.

“Just to Keep You Satisfied”: The album comes to an end and, apparently, so does the singer’s relationship with his beloved. It’s an odd way to draw such a sexy collection of songs to an end, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. “Maybe we'll meet down the line,” Gaye sings, “It's too late for you and me...” The only thing to do, one might suppose, is flip the record over and “get it on” again.

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