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Timeless Affairs: I Want You

Welcome to Timeless Affairs, the corner within Steppin' Into Tomorrow, where we shine spotlight on essential albums that have shaped our culture (and lives in some cases). We lovingly revisit, explore and zoom in on these gems in their full length. Digging out stories and fun facts from the making of the masterpieces that have built the foundation of the music today and continue to shape the future.

Tijmen de Nooy Photography

Today we celebrate the 46th anniversary of the key soul album of the 70’s. The ‘I Want You’ album by some of the most musically creative minds ever, Marvin Gaye. It’s a conceptual record that takes you on a sensual 11-track, 40-minute long ride, each track providing a different attitude, yet, everything flowing in the most cohesive way. It just never gets played out. This piece is hot yet timeless and to paraphrase Leon Ware, the co-producer of this album, it brought to the forefront a love that is natural and not prefabricated or nasty in any way.

This record has absolutely changed my life, so I’d like to properly revisit and take a moment here to appreciate the beauty this masterpiece holds, as I know for sure I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Santa dropping this gem underneath the tree when I was a kid. Well, more like early teenager actually, but it’s not that important. I still can’t believe I was bumping this as a child, basically, but I think coming from a non-English speaking background, the explicitness of certain records doesn’t become so evident unless you really pay close attention. In any way, I’m nothing but grateful for it being such a big part of my life and hence there goes this serenade write-up. Just press play.

Marvin Gaye, one of the most gifted composers and singers of his era, was always able to take something that is raw, even painful and transform it into something magical. All of the music he’s left behind could be considered as an inventory of the whole spectrum of human emotion. Signed to the legendary label Motown, he was one of the most mysterious, yet consistent hitmakers on their roster, therefore when he demanded his own studio and production company from the label. His wish was naturally granted and the studio turned into his absolute pride and joy. He called it ‘Marvin’s Room’, some called it “The Studio 54 of the West Coast”, as it was situated in Hollywood (in L.A., California) and hosted many dance parties. This space allowed him to spend all of his time there playing, creating and experimenting with the overdubs of his own voice that became such a staple to his unique sound. Making up lyrics on the fly, using his voice as an instrument in the most genius way. He did all of the vocals, whether it was background or lead and one of the most beautiful examples of that is on the ‘I Want You’ tune that has 5 different harmony parts. The lead single ‘I Want You’ became one of Marvin’s most successful tunes ever.

Marvin laying down on a couch in his sweats singing ‘I Want You’ during band rehearsal

Coming out in 1976, 3 years after ‘Let’s Get It On’ was released, ‘I Want You’ album is all about that good lovin’. Each groove on here is packed with love, seduction, desire, raw emotion, and intense sensuality. During the making of this record, Marvin was freshly in love with the young Janis Hunter, who was also his muse for ‘Let’s Get It On’. Shortly after that record came out, they embarked on a secret love affair. As illustrated by the ‘Come Live With Me Angel’, the most seductive ballad, Marvin invites his lover to come live with him. He bought a house in the hills, so the two of them can live together in peace and comfort (side-note: the energy of this song has also been famously re-edited in the later years by G-Unit).

Janis became Marvin’s second wife and they gave life to their two kids: Nona and Frankie. Marvin calls out Janis’s name passionately and lovingly throughout the record multiple times, in several songs. ‘Feel All My Love Inside’ is another song dedicated to her.

“My heart had never been happier. In the midst of the most erotic suite of songs he had ever sung, he had once again — as he did with Let’s Get It On — reaffirmed me as his muse. He had placed me in the center of his bed and his dreams. At the same time, he had placed himself in the center of our family.“ -Excerpt from Janis Hunter’s book, After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye

A very sweet moment occurs halfway through the album. In the brief version inspired by Michael Jackson’s hit of the same name, Marvin tenderly expresses his love for his kids and family on ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’. ‘All The Way Around’ beautifully captures the bittersweet aspect of longing and missing and the reunion of two lovers follows on ‘Since I Had You’. Probably the most controversial and groundbreaking moment on the record occurs on the 9th track ‘Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again’, where Marvin explicitly relishes the thought of performing oral sex on his girl for the first time. Promising marriage and family, in such a smooth way, you almost won’t notice if you don’t listen closely enough. Parts of this track were also famously sampled in Jay-Z’s ‘American Dreaming’.

From the album liner notes:

We had a big sign on the board in the studio. It was kind of subliminal. It said ‘HEAD’. We were in the studio messing around on this song. Marvin, off the top of his head, starts singing, ‘I want to give you some head.’ Stewart and I fell out on the floor. I said to Marvin, ‘It sounds great but are you serious?’ He said, ‘We’re keeping it.’ ‘Fine with me’, I said. Art looked at us and said, ‘You guys are crazy!’ We laid some of the first bricks for verbal freedom.“ — Leon Ware

Marvin Gaye & Leon Ware

The second single and last track on the album, ‘After The Dance’, explores the erotic theme of dancing and getting together after the dance (Also sampled by De La Soul on their track ‘With Me’). Instrumental of the same name and ‘I Want You’ jams that are sprinkled throughout the album are perfect in completing the atmosphere of this impeccable album. The entire record has been co-produced and co-written by fellow Motown musician Leon Ware, the amazing songwriter that worked with legends such as Michael Jackson, Minnie Riperton, and The Miracles, among many others.

I brought the music, but the magic that Marvin brought with his vocals made it a classic; I had a body, but Marvin and me dressed it together. Being two men sincerely dedicated to sensuality, that was all we ever discussed. All that happened on that project was so innate, so natural. It deserves to be timeless. The aroma that anybody gets from it is real, and you should be feeling it.”- Leon Ware

Some of the tracks, such as ‘I Want You’, ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’, ‘All The Way Around’ and ‘Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again’, were also co-produced by Diana Ross’s brother Arthur “T-Boy” Ross. The complex arrangements were curated by three different arrangers on the whole album: Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, David Blumberg, and Paul Riser.

The original Sugar Shack painting (1971)

The artwork for the record itself is the famous Ernie Barnes’ “Sugar Shack” painting. The painter, a previous professional football player, was well known for his unique style of elongated characters and he had his way of “freeze-framing an emotion”, which he was often praised for. The story goes that after Barnes had played a game of basketball with Gaye, the soul singer caught a glimpse of his painting in his car and simply had to have it. Barnes augmented the painting to include references to Gaye’s music, adding banners hanging from the ceiling to promote the album’s singles. The work then officially became the cover of the album, exposing this phenomenal piece of artwork to a mainstream audience, helping Barns to establish as one of the most famous African American artists of his time.

The year 2003 had brought an expanded Deluxe reissue edition of ‘I Want You’, so now you can listen to this silky smooth production in a 24-bit digital remastering, along with previously unissued material, 17 bonus tracks, and alternate mixes. Play it in your car, on your stereo, in your ears, play it loud and over again. This is truly one of those releases that transcend over time and make this world a better place. Get your dose of love today. ❤❤❤

Tijmen de Nooy Photography


James Brown
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