To Set the Mood

With the 1973 release of his song, “Let’s Get It On,” Marvin Gaye not only emerged as a sex symbol but also pioneered the musical sub-genre of hyper-sexual soul. Sampled over 57 times and featured in countless commercials, what many people do not know about this sexy ballad is that it started as a spiritual song about brotherly love. This website explores Marvin Gaye’s use of vocal composition, wordless sounds and traditions from funk to convert “Let’s Get It On” into the carnal expression of sensual desire it is known as today. By examining its evolution from a spiritual demo to an overtly sexy single, we analyze “Let’s Get It On” as a representation of Marvin Gaye’s initial foray into carnal experimentation as well as his intentional divergence from the conservatism of early Motown artistry and the religiosity of his abusive father.  Lastly, we argue that Gaye’s musical approaches significantly impacted the way that other black artists would later represent sexual experiences (or encounters) in their music.

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