Determined to reclaim his life after a stint in alcohol rehab, songwriter Ed Townsend penned a combatant's call to action, "Let's Get It On."
His friend Marvin Gaye, however, was a lover not a fighter. So the 34-year-old soul legend reworked the lyrics to create the sultry come-on that has buckled knees ever since, topping the charts 44 years ago today on September 8. 1973.
The four-minute seduction kicked off with a wah-wah guitar lick that "might as well be a mating call," said one music critic, and ended with "a long, moody fade-out" that's like a trail of tangled clothes on a bedroom floor. Credit for the timeless groove goes to the Funk Brothers, the session musicians who performed on Gaye's landmark single, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and other indelible Motown hits like "My Girl," "The Tears of a Clown" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
If the urgency of Gaye's plea comes across like the real thing, it's probably because he was actively wooing future wife Janis Hunter, who was in the studio when the vocals were recorded.
"Let's Get It On" was No. 1 for only two non-consecutive weeks, interrupted for one week by Helen Reddy's "Delta Dawn." But sales were almost as hot as the song itself. More than 2 million copies flew out of record stores in the first six weeks to become Motown's all-time bestselling single.
After getting it on the radio, everyone wanted to get it on at home too.
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