Have your sex

Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It OnHAPPY SEPTEMBER! MY, how time flies. I’m just back from a wonderful retreat and have lots of things to tell you about it, but want to give it a couple days to settle first. Instead, I’ll expound a little more on Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On (1973), as promised.

Popular opinion might look to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” (1975) as the first pop hit to feature—how do I put this politely?—realistic sexual sounds; but, great and sexy as that song is, others, uh, came earlier. The Chakachas’ “Jungle Fever” (1972) is the first one I know about. Of course, as a tween, I didn’t know what I was hearing at the time.

I didn’t know much more by the time “Pillow Talk” by Sylvia came out in 1973 (for that matter, I didn’t have a clue about “Little Willy,” which was popular at the same time, either). All this background is to say that I didn’t appreciate Marvin Gaye’s sexy album nearly as much when it was released as I do now.

I remember a friend at school—this was freshman year of high school—thinking it was pretty scandalous when “You Sure Love to Ball” came out as a single; I had still not heard the song, nor had I learned of that particular intransitive verb yet, innocent that I was, though I figured it all out pretty quickly from the context. (To my credit, I at least knew an intransitive verb when I saw one.)

Chakachas: Jungle FeverThey didn’t play that kind of music on the radio where I grew up, and the song never cracked the top 40, so I didn’t even get to hear Casey Kasem play it on Sunday mornings. I can just imagine him introducing it, though. I’m sure he’d have had something clever to say like, “That’s Madeline and Fred Ross you hear getting it on in the intro to Marvin Gaye’s new single, debuting this week at number thirty-nine. And now, on with the countdown.”

Marvin tells us that in the liner notes to the album, which he wrote himself. I’ll reproduce the best of those below because they’re just too good not to share. But first, could anyone but Marvin get away with the grammatical double-dealing he displays on the album’s last cut, “Just to Keep You Satisfied”?

It’s too late for you and me
It’s too late for you and I
Much too late for you to cry

It’s too late for you and me
Much too late for you and I
It’s too late for you and me
Much too late for you to cry, baby

I’ve heard recording artists get it right, and I’ve heard them get it wrong. This is the only instance I know of where the singer does it both ways to cover all bases. He’s assured of having the right (and wrong) grammar in there somewhere, and I guess that makes Marvin one of those “glass half-full” kind of guys. Which brings me back to the liner notes:

Marvin GayeI can’t see anything wrong with sex between consenting anybodies. I think we make far too much of it. After all, one’s genitals are just one important part of the magnificent human body. I have no argument with the essential part they play in the reproduction of the species; however, the reproductive process has been assured by the pleasure both parties receive when they engage in it.

I contend that SEX IS SEX and LOVE IS LOVE. When combined, they work well together, if two people are of about the same mind. But, they are really two discrete needs and should be treated as such. Time and space will not permit me to expound further, especially in the area of the psyche. I don’t believe in overly moralistic philosophies. Have your sex, it can be very exciting, if you’re lucky.

I hope the music that I present here makes you lucky.

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