Marvin Gaye Biography

The Prince of Motown & Soul

Biography

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Marvin Gaye live


Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was a drummer, session singer, singer-songwriter and record producer who had a huge part in shaping the sound of Motown in the 60s and 70s.

Born in Washington D.C, Marvin grew up with a deeply religious father who would beat him in to shape and throw him out of the house on a regular basis. Between the abuse, Marvin managed to find some relief through singing in church.

To get away from his dominant father, in 1956 – only 17 years old, Marvin briefly joined the army, only to fake mental illness and instead joined vocal group The Marquees. They recorded a single, but when the song didn’t chart the act was dropped.

The Marquees relocated to Chicago and found work as session singers until 1960 when the group gave up.

Keen to move on again, Marvin moved to Detroit to play drums(!) instead. As well as recording in the studio, he also played gigs. One day he found himself appearing at Motown president Berry Gordy’s house party, who signed him to his label as a drummer and singer.

After playing drums behind many of Motown’s acts, Marvin eventually released his first single as a lead singer in 1963.

This would be the beginning of a most impressive string of hits in Can I Get A Witness, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), It Takes Two, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On and Sexual Healing.

These tunes made Marvin Gaye a worldwide superstar for two decades.

On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye’s life was tragically cut short as he tried to break up an argument between his parents. He was shot dead by his father.


Guitar Lessons


Can I Get A Witness – Step 1

Today we start working on Marvin Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness?. This is a song in the key of Eb and structured similarly to a blues.

Before we dive into how to play the main riff, let’s have a listen to the complete song and map out the arrangement.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 1.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 2 (Free Preview)

To learn how to play this riff in an improvised way all over the neck, first work your way through all examples one by one.

Then start improvising.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 2.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 3

As we will soon add a sus4 to the riff, let’s work out how to play that chord in all five shapes.

To create a sus4 chord, we need to start with finding the 3rd, then replace it with a 4th one fret up.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 3.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 4

As the bass moves to chord IV, we get a new set of chords to build the riff.

Before you start flying around the fret board, picking these chord shapes out like it was the easiest thing in the world, make sure you’ve checked each example in detail.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 4.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 5

In this lesson, I’ll give you three examples that will make sure you’re comfortable playing the turnaround.

As you’ve seen, some chord shapes don’t work as well. Because of this, you only get three examples, not five.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 5.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 6

It’s time to put all these things together: The riff in Eb, the riff in Ab, the sus4 movements, the turnaround, and the Pentatonic lick.

Practicing to the loop, you’ll soon be able to do it all in an improvised way.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 6.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 7

In this lesson, you’ll find a video of me playing the complete song, as well as some TAB.

Spend up to half an hour playing along with me, preparing yourself for playing the song on your own.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 7.


Can I Get A Witness – Step 8

The time has come for you to have a go on your own.

Ensure you play in an improvised way, as in, you don’t plan where on the neck you play the chord riffs.

Go to Can I Get A Witness step 8.


Guitar Lessons


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 1

Today we start working on a new song in Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

This song has a very clever chord progression. The home chord, Ebm, feels different depending on what section it appears in.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 1.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 2 (Free Preview)

During the verse, the Ebm feels like the I chord of a blues.

Sure, the order and length of the chords are different from a standard blues, but the overall feel is there. It’s just that the I chord is now a Im chord.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 2.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 3

Today we continue our study of the Motown classic. We do so by looking at the bridge.

As always, I’m giving you a bunch of examples to practice to loops. Use these as a starting point to develop your own parts.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 3.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 4

You already played Ebm – Ab during the bridge. During the chorus, each of these chords gets a bar each.

This movement of a minor chord, a dom7 a 4th up is found naturally in a II – V.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 4.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 5

In this lesson, we take a look at four sections that all use the same chord.

I like to keep this section improvised but before I’ll let you loose to do the same, here are six examples of what you could play. Learn them first.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 5.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 6

Last time, you got six examples you could play over the intro, outro, and chorus tag. In this step I want you to improvise.

Keep the loop on for half an hour, keep improvising for this entire time.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 6.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 7

It’s that time again – time to play the full song!

By practicing all sections individually you know this song by now, all that is left for me to do is give you the TAB.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 7.


I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 8

It’s your turn, don’t just play what I did, take it somewhere else, keep improvising to this backing track on a loop for half an hour.

Don’t think about it as just one performance, instead, see it as an opportunity to discover the fret board.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine step 8.


Related Pages


Chords and Guitar Lessons

Can I Get A Witness is a fast blues format song in the key of Eb.

Over each chord in a blues, you quickly switch between three chords, creating an energetic riff.

Go to Can I Get A Witness chords and guitar lessons.


Lyrics

Ah listen everybody (everybody), especially you girls (especially you girls)
Is it right to be left alone by the one you love is never home
I love too hard, my friends sometimes say
But I believe, I believe, that a woman should be loved that way

Go to Can I Get A Witness lyrics.


Chords and Guitar Lessons

I Heard It Through The Grapevine is a Motown classic with a very clever chord progression.

All chords are as if from the key of Eb with just one chord being different, the Eb is a minor.

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine chords and guitar lessons.


Lyrics

I bet you’re wonderin’ how I knew
‘Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before
Between the two of us guys you know I loved you more

Go to I Heard It Through The Grapevine lyrics.


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