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"Got to Give It Up" is a song by American music artist Marvin Gaye. Written by the singer and produced by Art Stewart as a response to a request from Gaye's record label that he perform disco music, it was released in March of 1977.

"Got to Give It Up"
Picture sleeve for one of U.S. vinyl singles
Single by Marvin Gaye
from the album Live at the London Palladium
A-side"Got to Give It Up" (Pt. 1)
B-side"Got to Give It Up" (Pt. 2)
ReleasedMarch 15, 1977
RecordedDecember 1976
StudioMarvin's Room, Los Angeles, California
Length11:52 (full-length version)
4:12 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Marvin Gaye
Producer(s)Art Stewart
Marvin Gaye singles chronology
"Since I Had You"
"Got to Give It Up"
""Pops, We Love You (A Tribute to Father)" (w/Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder & Smokey Robinson)"

Upon its release, it topped three different Billboard charts and also became a worldwide success. Gaye sometimes used the song to open up his live concert shows. The song has been covered by several acts.



Throughout 1976, Marvin Gaye's popularity was still at a high in America and abroad, but the singer struggled throughout the year due to pending lawsuits from former band mates. Divorce court proceedings between Gaye and first wife Anna Gordy had put a strain on him. Financial difficulties almost led to imprisonment for the singer when Gordy accused him of failing to pay child support payments for their only child, son Marvin Pentz Gaye III.

To relieve Gaye from his debt, his European concert promoter Jeffrey Kruger booked the singer on a lengthy European tour. Gaye began the tour in the United Kingdom where he had a strong fan base dating back to his early career in the 1960s, making his first stop in the country since 1964. His performances there were given rave reviews. One of the shows, filmed at London's Palladium, was recorded for a live album, later released as Live at the London Palladium, in the spring of 1977. Around the same time, Gaye's label Motown tried to get the artist to record in the current sound of the times, disco music. Gaye criticized the music, claiming it lacked substance and vowed against recording in the genre. His label mate Diana Ross had recorded her first disco song, "Love Hangover". The song's producer Hal Davis debated over giving that song to either Ross or Gaye. After working over the song, he went with Ross, and it became her fourth solo number one hit. Motown struggled to get Gaye in the studio as Gaye focused on work on an album (which would later be released as Here, My Dear, dedicated to Gaye's troubled first marriage). After months of holding off from recording anything resembling disco, the singer set upon writing a song parodying a disco setting.


The first recording session for "Got to Give It Up", originally titled "Dancing Lady", was on December 13, 1976. Influenced by the Johnnie Taylor hit, "Disco Lady", Gaye was inspired to create his answer song to Taylor's hit. To help set up a "disco" atmosphere, Gaye hired Motown producer and engineer Art Stewart to oversee the song's production. Gaye and Stewart brought in several musicians and Gaye's friends, his brother Frankie and girlfriend Janis Hunter, to Gaye's recording studio complex, Marvin's Room. From December 14 to 17, 1976, Gaye performed the lead vocal track, instrumentation (which included Gaye, Fernando Harkness, Johnny McGhee, Frankie Beverly and Bugsy Wilcox and Funk Brother member Jack Ashford) and background vocals. In the song, Gaye added background vocals from his brother and his girlfriend. During the second half of the song, the song introduces vocal layered doo-wop styled scatting from Gaye and produced a funk-influenced vamp. Fernando Harkness performs a tenor saxophone solo in the second half of the song.

Gaye recorded his vocals on the first date of sessions, adding instrumentation on the following day, and then adding other effects in the latter two days, mixing it by January 1977. Influenced by the vocal chatter on his previous hit, "What's Going On", Gaye decided to create a party scene outside the recording studio where different voices are heard either greeting each other or partying. Gaye is also heard on the track greeting people and laughing while mingling in with the crowd. During the bridge, Gaye is heard yelling, "Say Don! Hey man, I didn't know you was in here!" The "Don" was later confirmed as Soul Train host Don Cornelius, who was one of Gaye's close friends. Gaye overlapped the party sounds over and over, making a loop. In the second half of the song, Gaye sings mainly the initial title, "dancing lady" over and over while a saxophone is playing a solo. All the background vocals on the second part of the song were from Gaye himself. Gaye also plays percussion, bass keyboards and RMI synthesisers in the final fade of the song. In the second half, he can be heard playing on a glass bottle halfway filled with grapefruit juice.[1] L.T.D. guitarist Johnny McGhee added guitar. McGhee and Frankie Beverly were the only non-band mates featured on the song playing instruments. Beverly also added assorted percussion.


After the start of the song, which includes vocal chatter, the song kicks off with a standard drum beat: kick, snare and hi-hat while synthesizers are heard soon afterwards. After nearly a minute, Gaye's vocals appear in a falsetto, which he sings in for most of the song. In the second half, after harmonizing in falsetto, Gaye's tenor vocals take over.

The song's story line focuses on a man who is a wallflower when he comes into a nightclub nervous to perform on the dance floor. But after a minute of this, the music takes over and his body starts to lose any inhibitions. Midway through he finally cuts loose before shouting the chant "non-stop express, party y'all; feel no distress, I'm at my best — let's dance, let's shout, gettin' funky what it's all about!" proving the power of the dance can overtake any shyness. The dance is mainly focused on Gaye and a suitable female partner he seeks. In the second half, a funkier jazz arrangement is helped in guitar, bass and a tambourine. After this, he continues chanting until the song fades.

Release and reactionEdit

The record was released in March 1977 and eventually topped the US Billboard charts. The song held the number one position on the US Billboard Hot 100 for one week, from June 18 to 25, 1977. It replaced "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, and was replaced by "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti. On the R&B Singles Charts it held the number one spot for five weeks from April 30 until June 17, 1977 (being interrupted twice at the number one position for one week by "Whodunit" by Tavares for the week of May 21, 1977 and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" for the week of May 28, 1977 respectively).[2] On the disco charts the single was also a number one hit.[3] Billboard ranked it as the No. 20 song of 1977.

It would also reach number-one on the dance chart in May. The single also found success outside the United States reaching number seven on the UK Singles Chart, his biggest charted hit as a solo artist since his version of "Abraham, Martin & John" had peaked at number nine on the chart in 1970. Before, Gaye had modest success with two singles - "Save the Children" (which was released as a double-A side with Gaye's 1966 recording, "Little Darling (I Need You)") in 1971 and "Let's Get It On" in 1973 (which peaked at number 31 on the UK chart). The single also found modest success in some countries, peaking at number 24 on the Dutch singles chart and number 31 on the New Zealand charts. The single's success helped its parent album, Live at the London Palladium find substantial success on the Billboard 200, where it stayed at the top ten for several weeks. Sales of the album eventually reached two million.

Music videoEdit

Gaye lip-synched the song with a band on Soul Train soon after the song's release. This video was edited to achieve a music video format.


Gaye's song became an important influence and motivation for Michael Jackson, who was searching to write a potential hit after The Jacksons had struggled with previous offerings. Jackson later wrote, with brother Randy, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)", adapting parts of Gaye's chant, transforming it into "let's dance, let's shout, shake your body down to the ground". The song, "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough", written solely by Jackson and recorded the same year as "Shake Your Body", took even more of Gaye's approach with "Got to Give It Up", using percussive instruments and a continued funk guitar riff. Jackson sings most of the song in falsetto. Jackson's producer Quincy Jones added in strings used during the instrumental intro and a synthesizer guitar during the song's bridge. Much like the party chatter in "Got to Give It Up", Jackson added in vocal chatter; however, the chatter would later be debated as two people having a verbal argument while the tape was recording (a woman could be heard hollering "I love your little ass anyway!"). Jackson and Jones allowed the argument in the recording.

"Got to Give It Up" has been featured in the films Menace II Society (1993), Boogie Nights (1997), Practical Magic (1998), Summer of Sam (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Barbershop (2002), This Christmas (2007), Eat Pray Love (2010) and Paul (2011).

The song has also featured in the television shows The Wire, True Blood, and Scandal.

The 2013 hit single "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and song co-writer T.I. was the subject of a lawsuit for allegedly copying "Got to Give It Up". Thicke originally told the public both he and Pharrell were in the recording studio and suddenly Thicke told Pharrell "Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove" and they wrote the song in less than an hour. However, Thicke later claimed this was all a lie and the song was entirely written by Pharrell.[4] Thicke stated "I was high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio."[5] On March 10, 2015, a federal jury found "Blurred Lines" infringed on "Got to Give It Up” and awarded nearly $7.4 million to Gaye's children. Jurors found against Pharrell and Thicke, but held harmless the record company and T.I.[6] While damages were reduced to $5.3 million, the jury's decision was held up on appeal.[7] As an additional remedy, Gaye was credited as a songwriter for "Blurred Lines".[8] This in turn affected "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of "Blurred Lines", "Word Crimes", where Gaye also has been added as a songwriter.[9]


  • Written and composed by Marvin Gaye
  • Produced and engineered by Art Stewart
  • Mixing by Art Stewart and Marvin Gaye
  • Marvin Gaye: Lead Vocals, RMI synthesizer bass, keyboards, percussion, bottle
  • Johnny McGhee: guitar
  • Fernando Harkness: saxophone
  • Bugsy Wilcox: drums
  • Jack Ashford: tambourine
  • Frankie Gaye: background vocals (Part I)
  • Janis Gaye: background vocals (Part I)
  • Vocal, rhythm and synthesizer arrangement by Marvin Gaye
  • Background vocals by Marvin Gaye (Part II)


Aaliyah's versionEdit

"Got to Give It Up"
Single by Aaliyah featuring Slick Rick
from the album One in a Million
B-side"No Days Go By"
ReleasedOctober 8, 1996
RecordedOctober 1995[10]
Spectrum Studios
(Greensboro, NC)
Larrabee Studios
(Los Angeles)
Length4:02 (radio edit)
4:41 (album version)
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Slick Rick
  • Michael Jackson
Aaliyah singles chronology
"If Your Girl Only Knew"
"Got to Give It Up"
"One in a Million"
Slick Rick singles chronology
"I Like"
"Got to Give It Up"
"Street Talkin'"

Background and recordingEdit

Aaliyah decided to record "Got To Give It Up" because she wanted to have party songs on the album.[11] In an interview Aaliyah stated, "I wanted some real party songs, so when my uncle played me that [original track], I thought of how I could make it different. Slick Rick [who’d been in jail] was on work release at the time, so Vincent got him on the song".[11] Producer Craig King recalls that when Aaliyah was recording "Got To Give It Up" she was dancing the entire time.[12] During the recording process of the song the producers sat for hours writing down the lyrics because they didn't know them.[12] King stated "To me, the funniest part was trying to figure out the lyrics. Marvin Gaye sang in such a crazy way, a lot of words we didn’t know. We had to sit there for hours making sure we were writing it down properly. We still think we might’ve gotten some words wrong.[12] Also during the recording process the producers changed about five words in the song so that they could fit for Aaliyah.[12] The overall goal while recording this song was to make it fit in within the current time so the producers didn't want it to sound too dated.[12] According to king "We didn’t want it to sound like it was from the ‘70s so we changed some lyrics because some of the words just wouldn’t work in the ‘90s like “suga mama.”[12] Aaliyah was proud to cover this song and she elaborated on covering the song saying “I don’t know how Marvin Gaye fans will react, but I hope they like it, I always think it’s a great compliment when people remake songs. I hope one day after I’m not here that people will cover my song's".[11]


On "Got to give it up" Aaliyah places her falsetto "toe to toe against the liquid overlapping rhyme scheme of hip hop's ultimate storyteller slick rick".[13] According to Bob Waliszewski from Plugged In lyrically the song is about finding "a man in a dance club ordering alcohol".[14] Aaliyah's version of the song features a sample from the song "Billie Jean" performed by Michael Jackson.[15]

Critical receptionEdit

When reviewing Aaliyah's second album "One In A Million" writer Dream Hampton from Vibe was surprisingly shocked with the outcome of Got To Give It Up.[16] According to Hampton "The album has some surprises too. Like any self respecting Marvin Gaye fan, I cringed when I Learned Aaliyah had covered his classic 1977 party jam "Got to give it Up". But her version is agreeably accurate (even with Slick Rick's snippet of an intro".[16] Hampton Also felt that Aaliyah was just as convincing as Marvin when it comes to songs theme of being a wall flower.[16] Connie Johnson from the Los Angeles Times felt that Aaliyah's skills were being displayed on the song and she felt that her version of "Got to Give It Up" was irresistible.[17] Writer Dean Van Nguyen from The Independent praised Aaliyah's voice on the song, saying she sounded great.[18]

Chart performanceEdit

Aaliyah's version of "Got to Give It Up" features a guest rap appearance from rapper Slick Rick and it was released as the second single in certain international markets. The song was a minor hit in the UK, peaking at number 37 on the UK Singles Chart and the song also peaked within the top ten on the UK R&B and UK Dance charts. In other internatiional markets got to give it up peaked at number 38 on the Tokio Hot 100 charts in Japan[19] and number 34 in New Zealand. The single also included a B-side, track entitled "No Days Go By".

A new remix of Aaliyah's "Got to Give It Up" (without Slick Rick's vocals) was included on her posthumous 2002 compilation album I Care 4 U. The video is a re-edit of the original, which was directed by Paul Hunter. The video was edited to both the album version with Slick Rick, and a remix, without Slick Rick's vocals.


Chart (1996-1997) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[20] 34
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[21] 98
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[22] 37
UK Dance (Official Charts Company)[23] 10
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[24] 4

Recordings by other artistsEdit

Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders included the song on his 1977 album Love Will Find a Way. Another saxophonist David Sanborn included the song on his 1994 album Hearsay.[25] Urban Knights, a contemporary jazz group led by legendary pianist Ramsey Lewis performed a version of this song, which was included on their 2003 album Urban Knights V.[26][27] A second known instrumental version is by saxophonist Kim Waters from his 2007 album You Are My Lady.[28][29] The song has been featured in several films and soundtracks since its release including the soundtracks to films such as 54, Summer of Sam and The Nanny Diaries while it was featured on the films, Charlie's Angels, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Menace 2 Society and Barbershop. In the latter film, the song is played during a crucial part in the film when two rival barbers nearly come to blows, the song is played which not only cools tension but brings out other people in the neighborhood to step out and dance. Justin Timberlake performed the song live at the 2008 Fashion Rocks concert. Gaye's daughter Nona recorded an unreleased version with Prince's band, New Power Generation. Zhane performed this song on a tribute album of various artists titled Marvin Is 60. The song has been performed recently by Thom Yorke's band Atoms for Peace during a live concert performance.[30] In 2015 South African band Van Coke Kartel released their version of the song.


  1. ^ "Got to Give It Up – Marvin Gaye | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 225.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974–2003. Record Research. p. 108.
  4. ^ "Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to face Marvin Gaye's family in court over Blurred Lines plagiarism claims – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  5. ^ Eriq Gardner (15 September 2014). "Robin Thicke Admits Drug Abuse, Lying to Media in Wild "Blurred Lines" Deposition (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  6. ^ "Jurors hit Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams with $7.4-million verdict".
  7. ^ Sicario, Ben (March 21, 2018). "'Blurred Lines' Verdict Upheld by Appeals Court". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  8. ^ Sisario, Ben; Smith, Noah (March 10, 2015). "'Blurred Lines' Infringed on Marvin Gaye Copyright, Jury Rules". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  9. ^ Fox, Jesse David (March 25, 2017). "Weird Al Yankovic Details Exactly How He Turned 'Blurred Lines' Into 'Word Crimes'". Vulture. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "20 Questions". Google Books. Vibe. October 1995. Archived from the original (Magazine) on November 1995. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  11. ^ a b c "A look back 20 years to the debut album of Aaliyah, the R. Kelly scandal, and her Timbaland-produced follow-up that set the R&B format on fire". Wax Poetics. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Aaliyah Week: How 'One In A Million' Pushed The Envelope Of R&B". Vibe. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  13. ^ "Got To Give It Up". Vibe. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Waliszewski, Bob. "One in a Million Album Review". Plugged In. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  15. ^ "25 Days of Aaliyah: Got To Give It Up". BET. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c "Aaliyah One In A Million". Vibe. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  17. ^ "Aaliyah's Spirit Sounds Like a 'Million". Los Angeles Times. September 28, 1996. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  18. ^ "'One In A Million' at 20: How Aaliyah forged pop's future". The Independent. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  19. ^ "Hits In Tokio". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  20. ^ " – Aaliyah – Got to Give It Up". Top 40 Singles.
  21. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  22. ^ "Aaliyah: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  23. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  24. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  25. ^ "Hearsay overview".
  26. ^ "Urban Knights V overview".
  27. ^ "Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights". Archived from the original on 2004-06-22.
  28. ^ "You Are My Lady overview". AllMusic.
  29. ^ "You Are My Lady Kim Waters".
  30. ^ "Atoms For Peace cover Marvin Gaye's 'Got To Give It Up' – watch". Retrieved October 13, 2013.

External linksEdit