Hear Marvin Gaye Sing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” A Capella: The Haunting Isolated Vocal Track

Mar­vin Gaye’s mega-hit, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” turns 50 this year.

Smokey Robin­son and Gladys Knight got the first cracks at the now icon­ic Bar­rett Strong-Nor­man Whit­field tune, but Gaye’s 1968 ren­di­tion is the famous one, the best­selling Motown sin­gle of the decade.

Gaye’s for­mer broth­er-in-law, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, is per­haps the only one who wasn’t impressed, refus­ing to believe it could be a viable sin­gle until its enthu­si­as­tic recep­tion by radio DJs and the lis­ten­ing pub­lic con­vinced him oth­er­wise. In short order, In The Groove, the 1968 album on which it first appeared, was reti­tled with the name of its mon­ster hit.

It’s giv­en a con­sid­er­able boost to the danc­ing raisins, Lawrence Kasdan’s film, The Big Chill, and the many emerg­ing tal­ents who’ve sam­pled the track in the decades fol­low­ing the singer’s untime­ly death.

Strip all that away.

For an even pur­er lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence, strip away its famous orches­tra­tion, described by Time Magazine’s Gilbert Cruz as “ a sin­gle drum shot,” “a dan­ger­ous-sound­ing elec­tric-piano riff,” and “a por­ten­tous tam­bourine rat­tle.”

As author Nel­son George, an his­to­ri­an of African Amer­i­can music, observed in his 1984 essay, “Mar­vin Gaye’s Abid­ing Unrest”:

In the ’60s Mar­vin bent his voice to the wish­es of Motown, but he did so his way, vocal­ly if not musi­cal­ly. He claimed he had three dif­fer­ent voic­es, a falset­to, a grit­ty gospel shout, and a smooth midrange close to his speak­ing voice…. His ver­sion of “Grapevine” is so intense, so pret­ty, so god­damn black in spir­it, it seems to cat­a­logue that world of black male emo­tions Charles Fuller evokes in his insight­ful Soldier’s Play

The superla­tives that accom­pa­ny Gaye’s 6th place rank­ing on Rolling Stone’s 2010 list of the 100 Great­est Singers of All Time speak to both the emo­tion­al pow­er he brought to his work, as well as his “bril­liant musi­cal­i­ty”:

These days we have Pro Tools and a thou­sand tracks, and you can do dif­fer­ent vocals on every track. But back then you real­ly had to inno­vate, like the way Mar­vin answered him­self in songs, or all that real­ly dis­tant back­ing work, where his voice is all the way in the back and echo­ing. It’s haunt­ing; he deliv­ered every sin­gle song with such clar­i­ty…

Even ex-wife Janis Gaye had sweet words for that voice in a recent inter­view with Voice Coun­cil mag­a­zine. Among the shock­ing rev­e­la­tions that got left out of her tell-all mem­oir about their tem­pes­tu­ous relationship—Gaye was a pri­mar­i­ly self-taught artist who smoked unfil­tered Camels:

…some­times he would walk around like Pavarot­ti just to make the kids laugh. But, yes, he would also run through scales, drink tea with hon­ey and lemon and lit­tle con­coc­tions of cayenne pep­per with vine­gar and things like that. But he didn’t warm up before every per­for­mance.

Lis­ten to “Let’s Get It On,” “Sex­u­al Heal­ing,” and oth­er iso­lat­ed vocal tracks from Mar­vin Gaye’s hit list here.

via Twist­ed Sifter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Beach Boys’ Angel­ic Vocal Har­monies in Four Iso­lat­ed Tracks from Pet Sounds: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B” & “Good Vibra­tions”

Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie on the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pres­sure,’ 1981

Hear a 4 Hour Playlist of Great Protest Songs: Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Bob Mar­ley, Pub­lic Ene­my, Bil­ly Bragg & More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her at the New York Soci­ety Library on April 23 for her month­ly low-bud­get vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.