It is a known fact that Marvin Gaye was one of the greatest Soul and R&B singer-songwriters of all time. He was apart of the legendary Motown Record label as one of their most prominent singers. Marvin was one of the few artists that helped shape, not just popular music, but the world in the ’60s and ’70s. With his groovy songs, heartbreaking ballads, he was labeled as the “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”. Rightfully so…
During his short yet impactful career, he received a number of recognitions for his work. This includes 12 Grammy Award nominations with 2 wins and a Lifetime Achievement Award that was awarded to him posthumously.
Marvin Gaye, being a drummer himself worked closely with the house musicians of Motown, The Funk Brothers. Together they released some of the most memorable songs, with some of the tastiest bass lines ever recorded in popular music.
Marvin first started out as a member of the vocal quartet The Marquees. With this group, he only saw limited success, mostly performances with Bo Diddley and some recording sessions. It was during this time when he started composing his own music.
Not a lot of people know that after his stint with The Marquees, Marvin Gaye was an in-house session drummer for Tri-Phi Records. It was at this time was when he first met Motown Records founder Berry Gordy at a house party. After listening to him once at this performance, he signed Marvin Gaye to his Motown subsidiary Tamla Records in 1960.
His first success came with his 1962 song “Stubborn Kind of Fellow”. This song reached number 8 on the R&B charts launching his career as a solo artist. During his career, he released a staggering 25 studio albums and 4 live albums.
With this list, we tried to gather some of his most legendary songs, but most importantly songs that have spectacular bass lines. He was known for his association with the legendary bass players of The Funk Brothers – James Jamerson and Bob Babbitt.
Let’s dive into it.
5. Marvin Gaye - Mercy, Mercy Me
Even though this list is in no particular order we had to start somewhere. The first song on our list is the second single from his legendary “What’s Going On“ album. “Mercy, Mercy Me” reached number 4 on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart after its release.
Even though James Jamerson played on most of the “What’s Going On” album it is in fact Bob Babbitt on bass on this song.
4. Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Next up we have “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”. This song is one of the most classic and powerful Marvin Gaye songs out there. It has a deep message with a heavy groove.
This song also features Bob Babbitt, and in our opinion, is one of his best bass lines ever recorded. The bass riff carries the whole song forward, no question about it. This song also comes from his “What’s Going On” album.
3. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - Ain't No Mountain High Enough
With this song, we are jumping back in time a little bit. The next song on our list is Marvin Gaye’s and Tammi Terrell’s 1967 hit single, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
Showing the significance of this song, The Recording Academy inducted it into its Hall of Fame songs list. This song is also “regarded today as one of the most important records ever released by Motown”.
It features the legendary James Jamerson on bass, who as always, improvised this bass line. Check it out and get ready to have your mind blown.
2. Marvin Gaye - Too Busy Thinking About My Baby
Next up we have Marvin’s 1969 hit, “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”. It features a driving bass line played by the one and only James Jamerson. It peaked at number 4 on the Billboard top 100 songs.
1. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - You're All I Need To Get By
Last but not least, we have another Marvin Gaye – Tammi Terrell duet, “You’re All I Need To Get By”. It was released on their “You’re All I Need” album which was their second collaboration after the successful “United” album that featured the above-mentioned “Ain’t no mountain high enough” song. And yes, it features the legendary James Jamerson on bass.
These are just a fraction of the Marvin Gaye songs that have amazing bass lines, we just tried to gather some of the best ones.
We know, we left out one of the most well-known Marvin Gaye songs with the best bass lines of all time – “What’s Going On”. We did that on purpose. That song is so well-known that every bass player or musician already knows it, or they should if they do not know it yet. These 5 songs are all really popular, mainstream Marvin Gaye songs, but their bass lines are all special in their own way. Must-know songs for every Marvin Gaye fan out there.
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