Tamla RecordsTamla T 54107 (B), November 1964

B-side of How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Freddie Gorman)

BritainStateside SS 360 (B), November 1964

B-side of How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

(Released in the UK under license through EMI/Stateside Records)

All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, or an improvement on what's already up here, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!A cover of an earlier Marvelettes B-side; if all you knew of either Marvin Gaye or the Marvelettes was What’s Going On and Please Mr Postman, that might seem incongruous.

But this isn’t some retooled bit of girl group froth. Rather, the Marvelettes’ original was one of the more arresting (and, to be honest, more disturbing) Motown tracks to date, a frank and open examination of a woman willing to trade her dignity for her man, set to a pretty tune – a precursor to Baby Love, but done in the form of a torchy ballad rather than a kicking 4/4 dancefloor smash. For Marvin to take it on shows a major commitment to a piece of serious art, rather than some kind of po-faced reinterpretation, an ironic reimagining of featherweight fluff.

If anything, he’s not up to the job yet. In Marvin’s hands, while it’s still arresting, and it’s certainly still pretty, it actually comes out softer, smoother, somehow less striking than the original.

Marvin's seventh LP in four years, 1965's 'How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You', which featured this song.As has been well-documented on this blog, Marvin wanted to sing standards and show tunes, not swaggering R&B or rock and roll. He didn’t want to be a pop star in the new, Sixties sense; unlike most of his labelmates, he didn’t want to be Ray Charles or Dinah Washington, he wanted to be Nat King Cole.

But that sort of thing needs a certain kind of talent, and he didn’t really have what it takes. When Marvin takes on an MOR standard, the deliveries are usually good, from a technical point of view at least, but there’s no feeling there; he’s so respectful of the tune, he spends so much energy paying homage to both the writers and his vocal heroes and heroines, that he doesn’t often really get inside a song, make it his own.

The ultimate conclusion is that he doesn’t have the acting chops to make MOR and jazz material really work; he sounds like a musical tourist, a dilettante indulging himself. And, to an extent, that’s what happens here too.

Forever is no MOR standard – it’s too low-key and too lyrically troublesome to really wow ’em in Vegas, even if this new version lays it on thickly, adding a bunch of schmaltzy overdubs that weren’t there in the original – but the quality (and qualities) of the songwriting are obvious, and Marvin reacts accordingly. He turns in an absolutely beautiful delivery, some of his sweetest and loveliest vocal work to date. But he’s so respectful of the tune, so mindful of the need to please the punters in the front row and bring his vocal home, that he ends up singing it rather than living it, and that’s where he loses out to the Marvelettes.

The song itself hasn’t got worse, it’s still superb, and this is still a fine record. But yet again, I’m left wondering what I might have made of a Motown recording if I’d heard this version first, because as things stand, as lovely as Marvin sounds here, I’d go for the Marvelettes’ version every single time.



(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)


Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:

You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.

(Or maybe you’re only interested in Marvin Gaye? Click for more.)

Marvin Gaye
“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”
Kim Weston
“A Little More Love”


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