THE ORIGINAL: Marvin Gaye (1964)
This is a Holland-Dozier-Holland classic that’s Motown to the bone. Marvin Gaye’s voice is velvety perfection, the beat is slow and slinky-sexy while the tambourine takes it to church, and the bass grooves with the right amount of swing to put a dip in your hip and a glide in your stride.
The call-and-response backing vocals coo and court, and even the short horn section works.
I remember witnessing old school basement parties that my aunts used to have, for adults only. One bare, red lightbulb, barely illuminating the hot and sweaty atmosphere. Seeing the couples holding each other tight while they swayed around the linoleum floor was a sight to behold.
THE COVER: James Taylor (1975)
James Taylor pretty much follows the original arrangement, but makes this cover a big YAWN. As I sit here listening to it on repeat, it’s making me sleepy.
It’s not as egregious as Pat Boone’s cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” but that’s not saying much. It literally sucks all of the soul out of the original. It’s one of the Soft-Rockiest, Easy-Listeningest, Yacht-Rockiest songs ever, and not in a good way.
Even Carly Simon on backing vocals, David Sanborn on sax and Jim Keltner on drums couldn’t save this snooze. Robert Cristgau was correct when he wrote that this cover is a “desecration of Marvin Gaye.”
WHO DOES IT BETTER?
Obviously Marvin Gaye wins here. But if you decide to watch the James Taylor video, take some No-Doz first, and maybe wash it down with a few cups of coffee and an eight ball of uncut Peruvian cocaine.
You have been warned.