On June 15, 1973, Marvin Gaye released what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls “the unabashedly erotic ‘Let’s Get It On’.” It topped the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts in the U.S. and ranks as one of the top 1000 songs of the 20th century according to Dave’s Music Database.
However, as a testament to Gaye’s phenomenal catalog, it is often overshadowed by his definitive version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and his politically poignant “What’s Going On.” Both songs are featured in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999. When it comes to sensuality and sexual explicitness, “Sexual Healing” steals some of the thunder from “Let’s Get It On” because it marked a comeback for Gaye before he was tragically shot by his father.
All three songs are named in the Rock Hall’s list of Top 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll and sit alongside “Let’s Get It On” on the DMDB top 1000 song list. Competing with such bona fide classics can be a daunting task.
According to Wikipedia, Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer on the song, had originally conceived it with a religious theme. It then became a political song before evolving into what Rolling Stone called “a masterpiece of erotic persuasion” in naming it one of the top 500 songs of all time. In 2008, Billboard magazine produced a list of its Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs. It called “Let’s Get It On,” which came in at #32, “one of the greatest sexual liberation anthems of all time.”
Just this week, I watched High Fidelity again. John Cusack’s character runs a record store, giving him access to more obscure music than the general population. Nonetheless, he and his girlfriend proclaim “Let’s Get It On” as their song. When Cusack hosts a party at the movie’s conclusion, he is understandably nervous about letting co-worker Jack Black to perform, convinced he’ll offend everyone. After all, Black had mercilessly berated a customer earlier in the movie for asking for Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Instead, Black surprises Cusack with a soulful version of “Let’s Get It On,” proving that even the most cynical music fans can’t deny what Gaye called the “aphrodisiac power” RS of the song.
For more information, check out Marvin Gaye’s entry in the DMDB music makers’ encyclopedia and the DMDB page for the Let’s Get It On album. Gaye is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He ranks in the top 100 of all time as both a singer and songwriter according to Dave’s Music Database.