One of the most sensual records in chart history became an American No. 1 on this date 43 years ago. Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ hit the top to become the second of his three US pop chart-toppers, and got listeners hot under the collar with its subject matter.
On the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of 8 September, 1973, ‘Let’s Get It On’ completed its climb to No. 1, taking over from Stories’ ‘Brother Louie.’ A week later, Gaye was replaced at the top by Helen Reddy’s ‘Delta Dawn.’ A week further on still, he had regained the crown for a second week at the summit.
The song was written and produced by Gaye with Ed Townsend, who would later contend that his initial idea with the lyric was not about sex, but about overcoming addiction, and getting on with the business of life. But Gaye was pretty clear-cut about the subject matter on the sleeve notes of the Let’s Get It On album, which reached No. 2. “I can’t see anything wrong with sex between consenting anybodies,” he wrote.
The groove of ‘Let’s Get It On’ was so infectious that, on the album of the same name, it was revisited for ‘Keep Gettin’ It On.’ The sessions, recorded at Motown’s Hitsville West Studios in March 1973, featured such celebrated players as horn men Plas Johnson and Ernie Watts and the Crusaders’ duo of Joe Sample and Wilton Felder, as well as Gaye himself on piano.
Townsend, who had known Gaye through the 1960s, wrote in the liner notes for the 2001 deluxe edition of the album: “I have been blessed to work with many great vocalists in my career, but none quite like Marvin Gaye. The sessions for ‘Let’s Get It On’ were the first time I was overwhelmed by a singer’s ability to understand and interpret the true meaning of a song.”