Happy HUMP day, Everyone. Guess what day it is! More of Marvelous Marvin Gaye
Got to Give it Up, Robin Thicke; you’e BUSTED. YOU can’t co-opt GENIUS.
Baby, I’m hot just like an oven…
Sexual Healing” is a 1982 song recorded by American singer Marvin Gaye on the Columbia Records label. It was his first single since his exit from his long-term record label Motown earlier in the year, following the release of the In Our Lifetime album the previous year. People magazine described it as “America’s hottest pop-culture turn-on since Olivia Newton-John suggested she wanted to get ‘Physical’.” It is listed at No. 233 on the Rolling Stone list of its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In the winter of 1981, Marvin Gaye had relocated to Ostend, Belgium, following the end of a European tour amid financial difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service and the end of his second marriage. Struggling with depression and cocaine addiction, Gaye had agreed to move to Ostend on the advice of longtime resident Freddy Couseart. While in Ostend, Gaye began to curb his drug use and recover from his depression, partaking in Ostend’s beaches. Gaye also began cutting ties with his longtime recording label, Motown, following the release of In Our Lifetime, an album the musician did not declare to be finished. He declared that he would never record with the label ever again after he accused the label of betraying his creativity.
Over the years, Gaye had received offers by labels such as I.R.S. Records, Arista Records and Elektra Records while still with Motown, afterwards, he sought to make a deal with CBS Records after they offered him a contract. The label agreed to sign him and to help clear his financial debt. CBS would spend a year negotiating the contract. Needing spending money, Couseart set Gaye up with a month-long England tour between June 13 and July 1, 1981, titled “A Heavy Love Affair Tour 1981,” named after his song,”Heavy Love Affair” from In Our Lifetime. After returning to Belgium that July, Gaye performed two shows at Ostend’s Casino Kursaal on July 3 and 4, 1981. The tour’s commercial and critical success further renewed Gaye’s musical confidence.
“Sexual Healing” has been described as a “reggae-styled number” and has elements of funk, boogie, soul and gospel. The music starts off with a deep bass kick drum, performed on the Roland TR-808 drum machine, followed by “tinny handclap sounds,” “ticky snare” and “tishy hi-hats.” The first vocal sounds are of whispers, recorded by singer Harvey Fuqua, an early mentor of Gaye’s who would assist him in production of the song and its parent album, Midnight Love. Fuqua whispers, “get up, wake up,” four times before the sounds of a rhythmic keyboard are played. Afterwards, Gaye is heard singing an ad-lib before the first verse.
As Gaye sings the verses, background vocals (provided by Gaye and Gordon Banks) are heard singing, “heal me, my darlin’,” while Gaye sings the lyrics. During the chorus, sounds of a harmonious synthesizer are heard before Gaye reaches a vocal bridge, that is led by Gaye and Gordon Banks providing a rhythm guitar solo. In the album version of the song, Fuqua’s whispers are repeated in the middle of the song, in the single version, however, Gaye takes Fuqua’s place, singing in part of Fuqua’s words adding more lyrics before returning to the verse. Another bridge follows after the second repeat of the chorus. In different versions of the song, Gaye had added extra lyrics to the second bridge as showcased on the song’s demo tape and on an alternate version of the song. Gaye eventually cut part of the lyrics off.
In the album version, Gaye and Banks’ background vocals immediately come after the second bridge ends, but in the single version, Gaye repeats the vamp he had sung at the ending of the first bridge, this time with Fuqua’s whispers added. The song ends with Gaye repeating the chorus line. As it fades out, Gaye can be heard singing, “please don’t procrastinate, it’s not good to masturbate.”
Release and reception
“Sexual Healing” was released as a single on September 30, 1982. The song reached number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart, where it stayed for a record ten weeks before being replaced by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s duet, “The Girl Is Mine.” The success was similar on the Hot 100 where it peaked at number three. The song also was a success on Billboard’s other component charts, reaching number 12 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart and number 34 on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart. The song reached number one on Canada’s RPM chart. It also peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart. On Belgium’s Ultratop 50 chart, the song reached number two. It also reached number one on New Zealand’s RIANZ chart, where it stayed at the top spot for six weeks. It reached number three on the Dutch Top 40 in the Netherlands and also reached number seven on the Irish Singles Chart in Ireland. In other countries such as Germany’s Media Control Charts, Switzerland’s Swedish Singles Chart and Italy’s Italian Singles Chart, success in those countries were modest, reaching number 23, 17 and 37 respectively in those countries’ charts.
In his review of Midnight Love for Rolling Stone, Dave Marsh described “Sexual Healing” as a track that was “sort of a polemic for the power of rampant humping.” Blender described it as “the plaintively blue-balled model for basically every slow jam” since its release. An Allmusic reviewer stated Gaye had “concocted a pioneering percussive sound that was balladic in taste but stimulating in feel.” In its end-year lists of 1982, Rolling Stone, NME and the Village Voice listed it as one of the “songs of the year” with the latter two ranking it at number 2.
“Sexual Healing” won Gaye several music industry awards. At the 1983 Grammy Awards, the song won Gaye two Grammys, including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Instrumental Performance. Gaye’s performance of the song later made it into the compilation album, Grammy’s Greatest Moments Volume I, in 1994. The American Music Awards recognized the track for Favorite Soul/R&B Single. “Sexual Healing” had reportedly sold over one million units in its standard format and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2001. The digital sales of “Sexual Healing” reached 500,000 units in shipments and was certified as a gold single in 2005. Also issued as a mastertone, this format was certified platinum in 2007.