*On Aug. 28, 1973, Marvin Gaye released “Let’s Get It On,” his 13th studio album and the most commercially successful of his career. It had the music world shook, with both its further departure from the traditional “Motown Sound” and its brazen lack of subtlety surrounding its suggestive material, leading one writer to call it “one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded.”
Following Gaye’s groundbreaking socially-conscious album “What’s Going On” in 1971, the sultry “Let’s Get It On” represented a complete lyrical 180 – from politics and race to the unapologetic joy of sex. It instantly established the crooner as a sex symbol. The album produced three singles with not-so-subtle titles: the title track, “Come Get to This” and “You Sure Love to Ball.”
Co-written with producer Ed Townsend, “Let’s Get It On” was Gaye’s plea for sexual liberation. It was originally conceived by Townsend with a religious theme, but Gaye collaborator Kenneth Stover saw it more as a political track, and rewrote the lyrics toward that end. Then Townsend came back and felt the song was neither strictly religious nor political, but rather a song about love and sex. Gaye and Townsend then collaborated on new lyrics and using the original backing tracks as recorded, Gaye transformed the song into this.
“Come Get to This,” about a man’s joy over the return of an old lover, was first recorded in 1970 during sessions for the 1971 album “What’s Going On.” Gaye then shelved it for three years before dragging it back out while mulling material for “Let’s Get It On.” The song was then remixed, with its lyrics and music inspired by the Motown Sound.
You can’t get much more direct than “You Sure Love to Ball” when it comes to what this song is about. Most of the tracks on “Let’s Get It On” explored the more of the romantic side of relationships, this third single was unabashedly about having sex, right from its opening line: “Ooh baby please turn yourself around … so I can love you good.”
Released on August 28, 1973, “Let’s Get It On” surpassed “What’s Going On” as the best-selling record of his Motown years. The album peaked at number two on Billboard, and spent a whopping 11 weeks atop the Billboard Soul Albums chart, becoming the best-selling soul album of 1973.