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 ten R&B hits. But only one of those, ‘Pride & Joy,’ had made the top ten of the pop chart. On 21 November 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).’
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 12 December. 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 on the UK bestseller list.
The Holland-Dozier-Holland song made its Hot 100 debut on that chart of precisely 51 years ago 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.
Never shy of recycling a great song, Motown scored another top three 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.
Of the myriad later interpretations, James Taylor’s is probably the most memorable, typifying the ease with which he could adapt old soul and pop hits to his acoustic style and taking the song 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.
‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ is on the Marvin Gaye album How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, which can be bought here.
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