‘How Sweet It Is’: Marvin Gaye Masters Soul And Pop

On November 21, 1964, Gaye entered the Hot 100 with what would would become a new crossover success, but a UK entry for just one week.

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Marvin Gaye artwork: UMG
Marvin Gaye artwork: UMG

For the first couple of years of the chart career of Marvin Gaye, he had two audiences that didn’t often meet. By late 1964, his soul fans had made him a Motown heartthrob and he’d enjoyed no fewer than seven Top 10 R&B hits. But only one of those, “Pride & Joy,” had made the Top 10 of the pop chart. On November 21, 1964, Gaye entered the Hot 100 what would would become a new crossover success and a top tenner on both surveys, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” 

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In the UK, the single became Marvin’s first solo chart single when it made No.49 for just one week on the listings for December 12. Four months earlier “Once Upon A Time,” his duet with Mary Wells, had become his first entry there when it too spent a week on the charts, but it could only make No.50.

Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “How Sweet It Is” made its Hot 100 debut at No.88. As Gaye became a proper crossover star, it would progress all the way to No.6 by the end of January, and No.3 R&B. It also gave the singer his second, modest, showing in the UK, spending one week at No.49 on the chart of December 10. That release, before Motown’s official British launch, was on Stateside.

Motown recycling

Never shy of recycling a great song, Motown scored another Top 3 R&B success with the composition, and Top 20 pop, less than two years later, when it was covered by Junior Walker and the All Stars. Other acts in the Motown stable to cut the tune around that time included the Elgins and Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Best Motown Songs Ever playlist.

Of the myriad later interpretations, James Taylor’s is probably the most memorable.It typified the ease with which he could adapt old soul and pop hits to his acoustic style and went to No.5 on the US pop chart again in 1975. Then Michael McDonald gave yet another outing to “How Sweet It Is” when he included it on his Motown album of 2003.

Buy or stream “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” on the Marvin Gaye album How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.

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