Tunes Du Jour Presents Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye wasn’t just a singer; he was a cultural touchstone. His music transcended genres and generations, leaving an indelible mark on the soundtrack of our lives.

Today’s playlist delves into the multifaceted artistry of this musical giant. We hear the early days of Gaye, the prince of Motown, with classics like “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” These tracks showcase Gaye’s undeniable charisma and his ability to deliver a love song that could melt glaciers.

But Gaye wasn’t content to simply be a love ballad specialist. One can’t ignore the social and political commentary woven into Gaye’s later works, particularly What’s Going On, which topped Rolling Stone’s 2020 survey of the greatest albums of all time. That record tackled war, poverty, and environmental concerns with a raw honesty that resonated deeply. Tracks like “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” tackled environmental degradation, while the title track became an anthem for a generation yearning for peace and a response to society’s ills. This willingness to confront social issues set Gaye apart, making him a voice for the voiceless.

Gaye’s influence on music is undeniable. His use of layered instrumentation paved the way for future generations of artists. More importantly, his vocal prowess – the raspy vulnerability, the effortless power – became a benchmark for countless singers across genres. From R&B to soul to pop, Gaye’s influence can be felt in the music we listen to today.

Beyond the music, Gaye’s personal struggles became part of his narrative. His tempestuous relationships and inner demons fueled the emotional intensity of his music, adding a layer of authenticity that resonated with listeners. But it’s important to remember the man behind the music, not just the turmoil. Gaye’s collaborations with Tammi Terrell, Kim Weston, Mary Wells, and Diana Ross produced some of the most beloved soul duets ever recorded, showcasing a tenderness and vulnerability that balanced his more confrontational moments.

The accompanying playlist offers a glimpse into the vast and multifaceted world of Marvin Gaye. You’ll find heart-wrenching ballads like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” alongside the dancefloor anthems like “Got to Give It Up.” There are the iconic duets with Tammi Terrell, the socially conscious anthems, and the smooth, seductive grooves that made him a legend.

Marvin Gaye’s legacy extends far beyond the number of records sold or awards won. He was a cultural icon, a voice for a generation, and an artist whose influence continues to be felt today. So put on your headphones, crank up the volume, and let the music of Marvin Gaye wash over you.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 12-19-22

Today’s playlist celebrates Hanukkah; the December 19 birthdays of Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty, Edith Piaf, Phil Ochs, KajaGooGoo’s Limahl, Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee, Lady Sovereign, Walter Murphy, and Lenny White; and the December 20 birthdays of Anita Ward, Billy Bragg, Kiss’s Peter Criss, Minutemen’s Mike Watt, The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, The Easybeats/Flash and the Pan’s Stevie Wright, Heatwave’s Keith Wilder, Alan Parsons, Kim Weston, Nao, and Judy Henske.

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Sam + Ringo

It Really Shoulda…

Sam + Ringo
It’s that time of year when music geeks such as I think about the I.R.S. I.R.S. as in It Really Shoulda, as in it really should been a top ten hit.

Eight years ago, a colleague from my Sony Music days, Rich Appel, created the I.R.S. countdown. Music fans submitted a list of songs that didn’t make the top ten on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 but should have, in their opinion. Rich compiled the tallies to create the overall I.R.S. top 104. He’s been compiling this survey each year since.

As for why a song should have been a top ten hit, that’s left entirely up to the list-maker. On my list, I included records that are perfect or near-perfect melodically, lyrically and/or production-wise. I included songs that have withstood the test of time and are still part of the public consciousness years later. I included records that everybody thinks were top ten hits. I included tracks that would have been top ten hits except they didn’t conform to Billboard’s rules for chart placement at their time of release (e.g. they weren’t available on commercial 7-inch singles or viral video play didn’t count in metric measurements). I included singles by artists who hit the top ten with lesser songs. I focused on tracks that have pop appeal, leaving out fantastic recordings from some of my favorite acts, such as The Replacements and The Smiths – they were called “alternative” because they weren’t pop.

My list for 2015 is below, followed by a Spotify playlist of those songs. Rich asks people submitting lists to put them in order, with #1 being the record one feels should have, more than any other, been a top ten hit. Ask me to do so tomorrow and my list will likely be in a different order.

For today, here is my I.R.S. 104. After the artist name I listed how high the song charted during its initial release. If the single hit the Hot 100 at a later date, I included that information as well.

You can hear the official I.R.S. 104 tally for 2015 on Rich Appel’s radio show, That Thing, this coming weekend on Friday at 6PM Eastern he’ll go from #104 to around #53 and Sunday starting at 6PM Eastern he’ll pick up from where he left off and go to #1.

1. Wonderful World – Sam Cooke (#12, 1960)
2. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (#19, 1967)
3. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner (#88, 1966)
4. I Only Want to Be with You – Dusty Springfield (#12, 1964)
5. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#14, 1969)
6. Cupid – Sam Cooke (#17, 1961)
7. Holiday – Madonna (#16, 1984)
8. Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder (did not chart, 1977)
9. 1999 – Prince (#44, 1982; #12, 1983; #40, 1999)
10. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (#23, 1975)
11. It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston (#14, 1967)
12. Little Egypt (Ying Yang) – The Coasters (#23, 1961)
13. I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & the Family Stone (#60, 1969; #38, 1970)
14. Into the Groove – Madonna (did not chart, 1985)
15. We Will Rock You – Queen (did not chart, 1978; #52, 1992)
16. S.O.S. – Abba (#15, 1975)
17. You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King (did not chart, 1971)
18. Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave (#21, 1966)
19. Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding (#25, 1967)
20. The Way You Do the Things You Do – The Temptations (#11, 1964)
21. It’s a Shame – Spinners (#14, 1970)
22. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Ike & Tina Turner (#14, 1961)
23. Under My Thumb – the Rolling Stones (did not chart, 1966)
24. Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) – Four Seasons (#13, 1966)
25. Me and Julio down by the School Yard – Paul Simon (#22, 1972)
26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko & the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir (did not chart, 1971)
27. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan (#21, 1978)
28. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (#29, 1964)
29. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (#13, 1984)
30. Super Freak – Rick James (#16, 1981)
31. Mighty Love – Spinners (#20, 1974)
32. Stan – Eminem featuring Dido (#51, 2000)
33. So Far Away – Carole King (#14, 1971)
34. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love (did not chart, 1963)
35. Because the Night – Patti Smith Group (#13, 1978)
36. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (#67, 1970)
37. Candy Girl – New Edition (#46, 1983)
38. Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders (#14, 1980)
39. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M. (#29, 1993)
40. It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (#36, 1988)
41. Heartbreak Hotel – the Jacksons (#22, 1981)
42. Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton (#20, 1976)
43. Valerie – Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse (did not chart, 2007)
44. Rock and Roll All Nite (live) – Kiss (#12, 1976)
45. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (#36, 1979)
46. L-O-V-E (Love) – Al Green (#13, 1975)
47. It’s Raining Men – the Weather Girls (#46, 1983)
48. I’m a Slave 4 U – Britney Spears (#27, 2001)
49. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (#35, 1980)
50. Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (#12, 1976)
51. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (#16, 1973)
52. Bring It on Home to Me – Sam Cooke (#13, 1962)
53. Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2 (#33, 1984)
54. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead (#13, 1979)
55. Move Your Feet – Junior Senior (did not chart, 2003)
56. Heroes – David Bowie (did not chart, 1977)
57. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (#21, 1978)
58. One Way or Another – Blondie (#24, 1979)
59. You Get What You Give – New Radicals (#36, 1999)
60. Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel – Tavares (#15, 1976)
61. Ain’t Nobody – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (#22, 1983)
62. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (#44, 1986, #23, 1987)
63. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt (#18, 1992)
64. Young Americans – David Bowie (#28, 1975)
65. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke (#31, 1965)
66. Respect Yourself – the Staple Singers (#12, 1971)
67. Moondance – Van Morrison (did not chart, 1970; #92, 1977)
68. Where’s the Love – Hanson (did not chart, 1997)
69. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder (#16, 1974)
70. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow (#62, 1982)
71. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club (#31, 1982)
72. Beautiful Stranger – Madonna (#19, 1999)
73. Shame, Shame, Shame – Shirley (& Company) (#12, 1975)
74. The Way I Am – Eminem (#58, 2000)
75. Jungle Love – The Time (#20, 1985)
76. Gypsy – Fleetwood Mac (#12, 1982)
77. Smile – Lily Allen (#49, 2007)
78. Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give up the Funk) – Parliament (#15, 1976)
79. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert (#11, 2013)
80. Solid – Ashford & Simpson (#12, 1985)
81. Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang (#36, 1980)
82. The Cup of Life – Ricky Martin (#60, 1998; #45, 1999)
83. Me, Myself and I – De La Soul (#34, 1989)
84. Bad Luck – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#15, 1975)
85. Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads (did not chart, 1981)
86. Fuck You – Lily Allen (#68, 2009)
87. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service (did not chart, 2003)
88. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (movie version) – Lauryn Hill (did not chart, 1998)
89. Dedication to My Ex (Miss That) – Lloyd featuring Andre 3000 (#79, 2011)
90. Jump To It – Aretha Franklin (#24, 1982)
91. Mamma Mia – Abba (#32, 1976)
92. Space Oddity – David Bowie (did not chart, 1969; #15, 1973)
93. P Control – O{+> (Prince) (did not chart, 1995)
94. Got Your Money – Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis (#33, 1999)
95. LDN – Lily Allen (did not chart, 2007)
96. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly (#13, 1959)
97. Does Your Mother Know – Abba (#19, 1979)
98. Up in a Puff of Smoke – Polly Brown (#16, 1975)
99. Blue Limousine – Apollonia 6 (did not chart, 1984)
100. All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople (#37, 1972)
101. Fight the Power – Public Enemy (did not chart, 1989)
102. Pass That Dutch – Missy Elliott (#27, 2003)
103. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne (#21, 2003)
104. You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse (#78, 2007; #77, 2008)

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Winston + Bobby Brown

The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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A Soulful Christmas Playlist

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the first woman to hit the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 with a song she wrote herself?

ANSWER: Carla Thomas. She was 16 years old when she wrote “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes),” which hit #10 in 1961. Today she turns 72.

In 1963, Thomas incorporated the title of her first hit into a seasonal offering, “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas.”

“Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas” inspires today’s playlist – fifty great soul and r&b Christmas jams, with some fun extra treats thrown in.

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Winston + Marvin 003

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine”

Winston + Marvin 003

By 1966, Barrett Strong, the singer on Motown Records’ first hit single, “Money (That’s What I Want),” had the core of a song based on expression that emanated from the Civil War era. Slaves in the United States passed along information via a “human grapevine.” In Strong’s time he often heard people passing along gossip, saying they “heard it through the grapevine.” With that line as the chorus and a bass line, he brought the song to Norman Whitfield, who added lyrics about someone who hears gossip that their lover is unfaithful and will leave him/her for another lover.

Whitfield produced a version of their new song, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” with Smokey Robinsons and the Miracles, but Motown chief Berry Gordy, Jr. rejected it.

In 1967, Whitfield entered the studio with Marvin Gaye. At the time Gaye was married to Berry Gordy’s sister Anna. Gaye heard that Anna was being unfaithful to him. The lyrics surely resonated with him (though in (un)fairness, he was cheating on Anna). To wring more emotion out of Gaye, Whitfield had him perform the song in a higher key than he normally used. This did not sit well with Gaye, who is quoted in his biography as saying “Norman and I came within a fraction of an inch of fighting. He thought I as a prick because I wasn’t about to be intimidated by him. We clashed. He made me sing in keys much higher than I was used to. He had me reaching for notes that caused my throat veins to bulge.”

All may have been for naught, as Berry Gordy rejected the Gaye recording as well.

In June of 1967, Aretha Franklin went to #1 with her version of Otis Redding’s “Respect.” With that record as his model, Whitfield again brought “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” into the studio later that year, this time with Gladys Knight and the Pips. This version was faster than the versions he produced for the Miracles and Gaye, with the intention to “out-funk” Aretha.

Gordy reluctantly approved the Pips version for release. It rose to #2 on the pop chart and went to #1 on the r&b chart, where it remained for six weeks. It became Motown’s biggest-selling single to that point.

The Gaye version ended up on his 1968 album In the Groove. The first single from that album, “Chained,” hit #32 on the pop chart. “Grapevine” got the attention of some radio disc jockeys, who gave it airplay. Said Gordy, “The DJs played it so much off the album that we had to release it as a single.”

Marvin Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was released as a single in fall of 1968. In mid-December it went to #1 on both the pop and r&b chart, and stayed on top of each for seven weeks, becoming Motown’s biggest hit to date. The week this went to #1 on the pop chart, Motown had the top three hits (#2 was “Love Child” by Diana Ross & the Supremes and #3 was “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder.) The company held onto the top three for four consecutive weeks. “I Heard It through the Grapevine” bookended the r&b #1 slot in ’68 – the Pips’ version was #1 on January 1 and Gaye’s was #1 on Dec. 31.

By the time his “Grapevine” was released Marvin Gaye already had 23 top 40 pop hits. This was his first #1.

Gaye’s version made Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Songs of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” was the first collaboration between Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield. The duo went on to compose “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” for The Temptations.

Marvin Gaye died at age 44 on April 1, 1984, shot to death by his father the day before his birthday. The gun used was a Christmas present from Marvin.

Happy Berry Gordy Jr.’s Birthday!

Today is the 83rd birthday of Berry Gordy, Jr., the aspiring pugilist turned songwriter turned record executive/entrepreneur. After penning hits for Jackie Wilson and Etta James in the late 1950s, Gordy went on to launch the Motown Record Corporation. The company’s first pop hit was Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” a song written by Gordy with Janie Bradford, in 1960. From then on the hits kept coming.

Today’s playlist is a small sampling of great Motown releases. If you have a favorite Motown record, let me know what it is in the Comments. Enjoy!