Sunday, August 08, 2010

Let's Get It On

I was driving up to the house, cranking an old classic by Marvin Gaye and singing along. (Which, by the way, is how you can tell that I was alone in the car.) A tender, sensitive ballad that was one of the biggest hits for the Prince of Soul, reaching #1 on both the Soul and Pop charts. It was the title track for the album of the same name, Let's Get It On, which also spawned the equally romantic "You Sure Love to Ball" (which, for some reason, doesn't get the same airplay as "Let's Get It On").

Now, don't misunderstand, I love this song. But every time I hear it, I'm struck by the depth of the shallowness of this song. It stands as a true monument to superficiality. (It also probably got him laid a lot.) Now, admittedly, this was in the midst of the Free Love revival that had started in the 60s, so maybe he can be forgiven. But he didn't want your forgiveness - it was going to be another decade before he'd ask for "Sexual Healing" (and two years after that, his father, the minister, shot and killed him the day before his 45th birthday - a wound that no amount of sexual healing was going to fix).

"Let's Get It On" had originally been written as a religious song, and morphed through a protest version before becoming the classic it is today. Please note the 70s porn guitar on the opening notes, as provided by the Funk Brothers.

You don't get better than that. And the lyrics stand out as absolute classics, don't they?
I've been really tryin', baby,
Tryin' to hold back this feelin' for so long
In retrospect, the decision to skip the Sta-Hard® cream was a mistake.
And if you feel like I feel, baby,
Then come on, oh, come on
But you might want to get there a little faster, baby. No Sta-Hard®, remember?
Whoo, let's get it on
See? There it is. Those four little words that every girl wants to hear. Just thrown out there, to show what a sensitive, caring guy he is. And repeated a few times, just in case you didn't get the message. And just to keep us on our toes, he likes to change it up every once in a while, with perhaps a "Let's love, baby."
He moans a lot as he sings this. Understandable, I guess. But then comes the most fascinating line of the song.
We're all sensitive people
Note the careful adjective choice there. Not "we're both sensitive people," but "we're all..." As in "Hey, you're my first choice. But if you don't want to do anything, no problem. There's plenty of other women. Check out that girl next to you. The one screaming and jumping up and down... with those big... oh, yeah, she'll be happy to take your place. I'm Marvin Gaye, bitch! There's always another choice!"
With so much to give,
Understand me, sugar,
Since we got to be,
Let's live.
Go ahead. Graph that sentence for me. I dare you.
I love you
I don't know. Somehow, that doesn't seem to be very sincere.
There's nothin' wrong
With me lovin' you
Well, as long as you're both using protection, maybe.
Baby, no, no,
And givin' yourself to me can never be wrong,
If the love is true
I think what he means is, "I love you, right now. Tomorrow, I'm gone. I'll leave some cash for the taxi, but checkout time is 11:00, so you can only sleep in a little."
Don't you know,
How sweet and wonderful life can be?
This is called a non sequiter.
I'm askin' you, baby,
To get it on with me
Really? You aren't just pimping for your guitarist?
I ain't gonna worry, I ain't gonna push
"See, I threw out my back up on stage doing those pelvic thrusts, so I'm gonna have to let you do the work."
Won't push you, baby.
So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, baby,
Stop beatin' 'round the bush.
That's the kind of subtle double entendre you can get away with when you're Marvin Gaye.

He then repeats "Let's get it on" about eight hundred times,interspersed with "oohs" and "oh yeahs," and the occasional somewhat random verse.
You know what I'm talkin' 'bout,
Come on, baby, hey, hey,
Let your love come out
Am I the only person who got a mental image from a slasher movie right there?
I know you know
What I've been dreamin' of,
Don't you, baby?
And it involves another woman, three midgets, and about fifteen pounds of blueberries.
My whole body is in love.
Really, Marvin? You know, sometimes a metaphor just doesn't work. Think about it for a second. "My whole body is in love"? Really? I think the only part "in love" is sticking straight out right now.

He repeats himself a little bit here (come to think of it, he repeats himself a lot in the course of this song), before he gets to a new line.
Beggin' you, baby, I want to get it on
Marvin Gaye has to beg? I'm not seein' it. (Remember, we're all sensitive people...).

And he works his way down to some more random repetition, with an extra line or two thrown in between.
If the spirit moves you, let me groove you good
No, that's not dated at all.

He also informs you that "I've been sanctified." I'm not sure what that means, but it makes the church service a lot more interesting.

Now, this video was a live version, so he works the audience for a little at the end. It's amazing that he can utter the words "Sugar, you promised me, you said, 'Marvin, baby, this evening,' you said we could get it on," and follow it up with "I've been waiting so long," and not sound like he was whining, isn't it?

And yes, he invariably performed in a coat and vest, just so he could strip them off at the end of this song. I don't think he ever actually got the pants off, but he usually threatened it.

(How many times can he repeat variations on "let's turn the lights down low" before he ends up completely in the dark?)

Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) - master of the delicate, caring love ballad.


Nance said...

Apparently not a man focused on long term goals, our Marvin, but probably highly successful in the short-term. He was just trying to catch Barry White's gravy all he was doin', man. Come on. Whine.

I'm Following. This was a lot more fun than Marvin.

bloggingdino said...

Have always enjoyed MG's voice -- that smooth Gospel-toned voice could pretty much carry anything by way of "lyrics."

Of course, if Oscar Wilde had had much to say about music, he might have called it "melody over mind." Well, anyhow, music and intellectualism seldom go together -- maybe someone like Peter Gabriel pulls it off from time to time, but the cast of modern pullers-off isn't huge, I suspect.

Now if, like Steve Allen, I could just stop forgetting the words to that Beatles song -- let's see, how does it go?

"She loves you
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Yeah, yeah, yeah YEAH!"