Open main menu

"Let's Get It On" is a song and hit single by soul musician Marvin Gaye, released June 15, 1973, on Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. The song was recorded on March 22, 1973, at Hitsville West in Los Angeles, California. The song features romantic and sexual lyricism and funk instrumentation by The Funk Brothers. The title track of Gaye's album Let's Get It On (1973), it was written by Marvin Gaye and producer Ed Townsend. "Let's Get It On" became Gaye's most successful single for Motown and one of his most well-known songs. With the help of the song's sexually explicit content, "Let's Get It On" helped give Gaye a reputation as a sex symbol during its initial popularity.

"Let's Get It On"
Let's Get It On single.jpg
1973 UK single release
Single by Marvin Gaye
from the album Let's Get It On
B-side"I Wish It Would Rain"
ReleasedJune 15, 1973
Format7-inch 45 rpm single
RecordedMarch 22, 1973
StudioHitsville West, Los Angeles
GenreSoul, funk
Length4:53 (Album version)
3:58 (Single edit)
Songwriter(s)Marvin Gaye, Ed Townsend
Producer(s)Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye singles chronology
"I Want to Come Home for Christmas"
"Let's Get It On"
"Come Get to This"
Audio sample


Co-written with producer Ed Townsend, "Let's Get It On" was Gaye's plea for sexual liberation. When originally conceived by Townsend, who was released from a rehab facility for alcoholism, it was written with a religious theme. Gaye confidante Kenneth Stover changed some of the words around as a political song and Gaye recorded the version as it was written, but Townsend protested that the song wasn't a politically conscious song but a song dedicated to love and sex.[1] Gaye and Townsend then collaborated on new lyrics and using the original backing tracks as recorded, Gaye transformed the song into an emotional centerpiece. The album version of "Let's Get It On" features soulful and emotional singing by Gaye that is backed by multi-tracked background vocals, also provided by Gaye, along with the song's signature, and most notable, funky guitar arrangements. In an article for Rolling Stone magazine, music critic Jon Landau wrote of the song:

"Let's Get It On" is a classic Motown single, endlessly repeatable and always enjoyable. It begins with three great wah-wah notes that herald the arrival of a vintage Fifties melody. But while the song centers around classically simple chord changes, the arrangement centers around a slightly eccentric rhythm pattern that deepens the song's power while covering it with a contemporary veneer. Above all, it has Marvin Gaye's best singing at its center, fine background voices on the side, and a long, moody fade-out that challenges you not to play the cut again.[2]

— Jon Landau

The song was reprised on the fourth track of Let's Get It On as "Keep Gettin' It On", which was a sequel and continuation of the original. The recording of the title track also inspired Gaye to revive previous recordings from his earlier 1970 sessions at the Hitsville U.S.A. Studio, which would consist of the rest of the album's material.

In 2001, when the album Let's Get It On was reissued by Motown as a two-disc deluxe edition release, the original demo that Gaye had recorded with lyrics by Kenneth Stover was included. It has a running time of 5:12.

During the time of the recording of the song and its subsequent album of the same name, Marvin had befriended the family of jazz guitarist Slim Gaillard and had become smitten with Gaillard's seventeen-year-old daughter, Janis Hunter. A widely reported story has been told that Hunter was in the studio when Gaye recorded the song at the recording booth. Gaye and Hunter were said to be smitten with each other and, within months, Gaye and Hunter began dating. Hunter would become Gaye's live-in lover by 1974. Their relationship would produce two children and a 1977 marriage.[3]

Release and receptionEdit

"Let's Get It On" became, and remains to this day, one of Gaye's as well Motown Records most successful singles, as it reached number 1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart on September 8, 1973.[4] The single remained at number 1 for two weeks, while also remaining at the top of the Billboard Soul Singles chart for eight weeks.[5] In its first week at the top of the chart, "Let's Get It On" replaced "Brother Louie" by Stories, and was replaced by "Delta Dawn" by Helen Reddy; it later replaced "Delta Dawn" and was finally knocked off the top of the chart by Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band". The single stayed inside the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 for 13 weeks, 10 of those weeks inside the top five. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1973.[6]

The song became the biggest selling Motown release in the United States at the time, selling over two-million copies within the first six weeks of following its release. "Let's Get It On" also became the second best-selling single of 1973, only surpassed in sales by Tony Orlando & Dawn's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree". At the time, the single was Motown's largest-selling recording ever, selling over four-million copies in 1973 and 1974. [7] The single has gone on to sell over 1 million copies, and, on June 25, 2007, was certified platinum in sales by the RIAA.[8]

A bluegrass version of the song was later recorded by Shannon Lawson on his 2002 album Chase the Sun.[9] "Let's Get It On" was given a remix in 2004, when producers mixed Gaye's vocals with a different musical production labeled as "stepper's music". Released in 2005 as a single, "Let's Get it On (The Producers Mix)" returned the song to the Billboard R&B charts, thirty years after its original release. The re-released version of "Let's Get It On" was certified as a gold single with sales in excess of 500,000 copies in 2005 by the RIAA. In 2004, the song was ranked number 167 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time;[10] in a revised 2012 list, the song was ranked at number 168.[11] In 2008, "Let's Get It On" was ranked #32 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs list.[4]

Uses in popular cultureEdit

Track listings and formatsEdit

These are the formats and track listings of the major single releases of "Let's Get It On":

Chart historyEdit

Title Information
"Let's Get It On"

All-time chartsEdit

Chart (1958–2018) Position
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 41


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[16] Gold 400,000 
United States (RIAA)[17] Platinum 1,000,000^
United States (RIAA)[17]
2005 remix
Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Edmonds (2001), pp. 7–8.
  2. ^ Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On : Music Review (1973). Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2008-08-18.
  3. ^ PopMatters Music Feature - The Tortured Soul of.... Retrieved on 2008-08-26.
  4. ^ a b Billboard - Hot 100. Nielen Business Media. Retrieved on 2008-10-04.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 226.
  6. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1973
  7. ^ Super Seventies - "Let's Get It On". Super Seventies. Retrieved on 2008-08-17.
  8. ^ RIAA Searchable Database Archived 2008-09-02 at WebCite. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2008-08-18.
  9. ^ "Shannon Lawson : Biography". Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  10. ^ "RS 500 Greatest Songs: 167". Retrieved August 26, 2008.
  11. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time:Marvin Gaye, 'Let's Get It On'". 2011-04-07. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  12. ^ Retrieved February 25, 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On (US 7"). Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-26.
  14. ^ Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On (US Reissue). Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-26.
  15. ^ "Hot 100 turns 60". Billboard. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  16. ^ "British single certifications – Marvin Gaye – Let's Get It On". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 17, 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Let's Get It On in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  17. ^ a b "American single certifications – Marvin Gaye – Let's Get It On". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 17, 2019. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 


  • David Ritz; Ed Townsend; Ben Edmonds; Harry Weinger (2001). Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On (Deluxe edition liner notes). Motown Records. MOTD 4757.

External linksEdit