Many of us can think of at least a couple scenes in movies, television or video games in which a sexual encounter was accompanied with a sensual, funky soundtrack. This tactic seems to be most prevalent in romantic comedies, which is odd, because there’s nothing inherently funny about sexual relationships. No, in fact, they’re quite serious. Many of us have been there — lost in moments — as our thoughts slip back to that special someone. It circles around in your head like an infectious song on repeat. It’s not just powerful. It’s beautiful. I’d wager that no one understands just how much more so than legendary soul man Marvin Gaye, whose 1973 album “Let’s Get It On” stands the test of time as a monolithic tribute to the passion of pure romance – the perfect album for the upcoming holiday.
Few songs have been so lauded for their pure sex appeal more than that iconic opening cut, “Let’s Get It On.” Opening with the quintessential funky guitar line, Gaye bursts onto the scene, crooning, “I’ve been really trying, baby, trying to hold back this feeling for so long.” As the song waltzes throughout its sultry soundscapes, it’s hard to imagine most listeners holding those feelings back at all. A simple, methodical beat and slow, pulsating bass push the song forward as Gaye’s voice rises and falls with effortless grace. Lines such as “if the spirit moves you, let me groove you, let your love come down, get it on, come on, baby” only serve to cement the song as an all-time classic cut — one that has undoubtedly filled the walls of countless bedrooms.
Of course, one track doesn’t make for a classic album. Fortunately, then, that Gaye brought out the best of his songwriting for the remainder of the record. “If I Should Die Tonight” is as moving a soul ballad as any, weaving through impassioned falsetto and swelling strings. The track reaches its emotional peak in its propulsive saxophone solo, leading into Gaye’s final verses: “If I should die tonight, baby, I just want you to keep this one thought in mind, that I will never die blue, ’cause I’ve known you.” Lines like these could threaten to derail the record into overwrought tear-bait, but Gaye’s peerless vocal delivery sells each and every verse with authoritative conviction. The album’s remaining tracks follow suit, delivering emotional blow after emotional blow.
That’s why I make sure I’m in a sentimental, romantic state of mind every time I decide to spin Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Thinking of that special someone seems to enhance the experience in ways that an ordinary listen through the record just wouldn’t do. Whenever Gaye’s voice cuts through the air, it’s her face that comes to mind. It’s easy to reminisce of the first movie we saw together, and it’s easier still to recall the time spent on the bench by the lake. If the power to conjure those memories, and the feelings that follow, doesn’t cement Gaye’s 1973 album as a true classic, I’m not sure what could. “Let’s Get It On,” despite the pure sexuality of its title, is much more than just an ode to casual, primal dalliance; it’s a testament to the pure emotive power that springs forth from two people together and truly happy.