Marvin Gaye started releasing albums at the age of just 22, in 1961. They started to cross over to a pop audience three years later, when his Together set with Mary Wells appeared. In 1971, the more mature Marvin really connected with the mainstream album audience on the classic What’s Going On, but he scaled even greater heights with the 1973 LP that started its chart journey on 15 September that year, Let’s Get It On.
Gaye fans were primed and ready for this sensuous celebration via the title track lead single, which hit the charts in July that year and was in the second of a six-week run atop the Billboard Hot 100 when the album charted. Easily the longest-running pop No. 1 of the year in America, it was the perfect teaser for Marvin’s 13th studio LP.
Music critics purred with satisfaction at the new release. “Gaye uses his voice (in both lead and background) to create a dreamlike quality only slightly less surreal than he did on What’s Going On, his very best record to date,” wrote Jon Landau in Rolling Stone.
“But while on the earlier work he sang of the difference between his vision of God’s will and man’s life,” Landau continued, “he is currently preoccupied with matters purely secular — love and sex. And yet he continues to transmit that same degree of intensity, sending out near cosmic overtones while eloquently phrasing the sometimes simplistic lyrics.”
Record buyers agreed. Motown promoted the album in new ways and to a younger audience than its traditional base, taking out advertising space for it in National Lampoon magazine and the college edition of Time. Let’s Get It On shipped gold, and debuted at No.28, by far the highest new entry of the week.
In the US, it went platinum within three, and went on to spend a week at No.2, held off the top spot only by The Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup. Outdoing the No.6 peak of What’s Going On, it also managed eight weeks more than its predecessor on the Billboard chart, with a 61-week stay.