Got to Give It Up  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Got To Give It Up)
Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Got to Give It Up" is a funk/disco song by American recording artist Marvin Gaye. Written by the singer and produced by Art Stewart, it was recorded in three studio dates in 1976 with a final mixing in early 1977. The song, a response to Gaye's label Motown pushing for the singer to record commercially accessible dance music to fit the music industry's embrace of dance rhythms, was released in March 1977. It was an instant success, landing at number-one on three different Billboard charts and helping its parent album, Gaye's live album, Live at the London Palladium, sell more than two-million copies.

The song held the number one position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for one week, from June 18–25, 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). On the disco charts the single was also a number one hit. The song influenced several dance records after its release including two songs by Michael Jackson. It was later covered by the group Zhane in 1999 and Aaliyah in 1997.

Pop musician Robin Thicke considered "Got to Give It Up" to be his favorite song of all time, and cited it as an influence on his own song, "Blurred Lines", Thicke's first single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In August 2013, Thicke preemptively sued the family of Gaye and Bridgeport Music after the two entities claimed that "Blurred Lines" copied the "feel" and "sound" of "Got to Give It Up" and illegally sampled Funkadelic's song "Sexy Ways". The lawsuit itself accused Gaye's family of trying to assert ownership of an entire genre of music through their copyright infringement claims.



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 Gaye. Financial difficulties almost led to imprisonment for the singer when Gordy accused him of failing to pay alimony payments for their only child, son Marvin Pentz Gay III.

To relieve Gaye from his debt, his European concert promoter Freddy Kruger booked the singer on a lengthy European tour, his first since 1967. Gaye began the tour in the United Kingdom where he had a strong fan base dating back to his early career in the 1960s. 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. 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 and family (mainly his brother Frankie, sister Zeola and girlfriend Janis Hunter) to Gaye's recording studio complex, Marvin's Room. From December 14–17, 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. 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. At one point during the song, a female voice can be heard yelping and screaming in joy. The voice was later confirmed to be that of Gaye's baby sister Zeola. Gaye is also heard visibly 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, RMI synthesizer bass and keyboards on the song. In the second half, he can be heard playing on a glass bottle halfway filled with grapefruit juice. 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.


Despite its later reputation as a "disco classic", the style of "Got to Give It Up" is mainly funk with jazz-funk elements. 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 five minutes, Gaye's vocals appear in a falsetto, which he sangs 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 "let's dance, let's shout, get 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 reaction

Motown released "Got to Give It Up" as a single in March 1977. Response was immediate. By April of the year, it had already climbed to number-one on Billboard's Hot Soul Singles chart. Within two months, the song had also climbed to number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. It would 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—especially in Gaye's home country, where it stayed at the top ten for several weeks. Sales of the album eventually reached two-million.


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, the classic, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)", taking and altering bits of Gaye's chant, "let's dance, let's shout, get funky what it's all about." 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 the entire song, using percussive instruments as the basis of the song and a continued funk guitar riff, that was also present on "Got to Give It Up". Jackson sings most of the song in falsetto though he also adds tenor vocals in the bridge. Jackson and producer Quincy Jones added in strings to make the song different and an original. 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 "man I hate your ass anyway!"). Jackson and Jones allowed the argument in the recording.

"Got to Give It Up" was featured in the films Menace II Society (1993), Boogie Nights (1997), Summer of Sam (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Barbershop (2002) and Paul (film) (2011).


  • Written and composed by Marvin Gaye
  • Produced and engineered by Art Stewart
  • Mixing by Art Stewart and Marvin Gaye
  • Marvin Gaye: RMI synthesizer bass, keyboards, percussion
  • Johnny McGhee: guitar
  • Fernando Harkness: saxophone
  • Bugsy Wilcox: drums
  • Jack Ashford: tambourine
  • Frankie Gaye: background vocals (first part)
  • Janis Hunter: background vocals (first part)
  • Zeola Gaye: background vocals, chatter (first part)
  • Vocal, rhythm and synthesizer arrangement by Marvin Gaye
  • Lead and background vocals by Marvin Gaye

Charts and procession


Chart (1977) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Soul Singles Chart 1
US Dance Songs Chart 1
RPM Singles Chart 5
UK Singles Chart 7
Dutch Singles Chart 24
New Zealand RIANZ Chart 31

Procession and succession

Template:S-start Template:Succession box Template:Succession box Template:Succession box Template:Succession box Template:S-end

Cover versions

Aaliyah version

Template:Infobox single

Aaliyah's cover version of Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" features a rap from Slick Rick, samples Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", and was included on her 1996 album One in a Million. It was released as the second single in the UK. Aaliyah's version of "Got to Give It Up" failed to chart in the U.S. when it was commercially released there in January 1997 (It was not sent to radio stations for airplay, a 12-inch vinyl single was only made for sale in record stores), but it was a minor hit in the UK peaking at number 37 in the UK Singles Chart. It reached number 34 in New Zealand. The single's B-side, "No Days Go By", was one of Aaliyah's few self-compositions.

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.

A music video 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 RIANZ Singles Chart 34
UK Top 75 Singles 37

Covers by other artists

Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders covered the song from his 1977 album "Love Will Find A Way." Another saxophonist David Sanborn covered the song from his 1994 album "Hearsay." Urban Knights, a contemporary jazz group led by legendary pianist Ramsey Lewis performed a cover of this song from their 2003 album Urban Knights V. A second known instrumental version is from saxophonist Kim Waters from his 2007 album You Are My Lady. 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. Longtime Marvin Gaye fan 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.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Got to Give It Up" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools