‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow’: Marvin Gaye’s Persistence Earns Pop Debut

‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow,’ which Gaye co-wrote with Mickey Stevenson and Berry Gordy’s brother George, established him as a soul contender.

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Marvin Gaye artwork: UMG
Marvin Gaye artwork: UMG

After three singles that had failed to make it, October 20, 1962 was a breakthrough date for Marvin Gaye. His pop chart career in America began with a single featuring backing vocals by the Del-Phi’s, who would become Martha & the Vandellas. Gaye’s “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” had entered the R&B bestsellers two weeks earlier, and on that chart date, it squeaked into the Hot 100 at No.98.

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The song, which Gaye co-wrote with Mickey Stevenson and Berry Gordy’s brother George, didn’t make a big pop crossover by any means, peaking at No.46 on the December 1 chart. But it established him as a soul contender, climbing to No.8 on the R&B survey, a huge step in the right direction after his first three Motown singles, “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide,” “Sandman,” and “Soldier’s Plea,” had all missed both charts.

Drumming up interest

Gaye had been in and around Motown for quite some time already. He drummed with the Miracles on tour and proved his songwriting credentials by collaborating with Stevenson and Gordy to compose the Marvelettes’ R&B Top 10 (and pop Top 20) hit “Beechwood 4-5789.”

That song peaked on the pop chart four weeks before the debut appearance with “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” hailed the beginning of an era. He followed up with the Top 30 pop crossover “Hitch Hike,” and 1963 would bring his first pop Top 10 success in America with “Pride and Joy.”

Listen to the Best Motown Songs Ever playlist.

Gaye regularly performed “Fellow” on stage in his early years of success, and would make a reference to its title on his 1973 album with his dear friend Diana Ross, Diana & Marvin. Listen at 2’45” into the Mel Bolton and Marilyn McLeod song “Include Me In Your Life,“ which closed the album. It includes Marvin’s spoken nod to the song that gave him his first Top 10 R&B appearance more than a decade earlier.

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Buy or stream “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” on the album That Stubborn Kinda’ Fellow.

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