The Prince of Motown & Soul
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Marvin Gaye live
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.
Can I Get A Witness – Step 1
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)
Then start improvising.
Go to Can I Get A Witness step 2.
Can I Get A Witness – Step 3
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
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
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
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
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
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.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 1
This song has a very clever chord progression. The home chord, Ebm, feels different depending on what section it appears in.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 2 (Free Preview)
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.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 3
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.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 4
This movement of a minor chord, a dom7 a 4th up is found naturally in a II – V.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 5
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.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 6
Keep the loop on for half an hour, keep improvising for this entire time.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 7
By practicing all sections individually you know this song by now, all that is left for me to do is give you the TAB.
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Step 8
Don’t think about it as just one performance, instead, see it as an opportunity to discover the fret board.
Chords and Guitar Lessons
Over each chord in a blues, you quickly switch between three chords, creating an energetic riff.
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
All chords are as if from the key of Eb with just one chord being different, the Eb is a minor.
Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.
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