In a Top 2000 a gogo documentary
, Martha Reeves told the story behind this song: "Marvin Gaye had recorded 'Dancing in the Street" when I first heard it, and he had put a real smooth vocal on there, sort of like (jazzy singing) 'Calling all around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat baby?' and for some reason, Marvin said, "let's try this song on Martha." I was in the office and they let me hear the song, but I couldn't quite feel it that way. I had been to Rio De Janeiro, I had travelled to New Orleans during Carnival time, so I just knew it had to be somewhere about dancing in the street. I said, 'Can I sing it the way that I feel it?' And they said, 'Go ahead.'
So, I sang it (singing on the beat) 'calling all around the world are you ready for a brand-new beat,' and, they loved it. There was all kinds of congratulatory hand slaps and 'hey man, we got a hit in that window up there,' and the engineer, Lawrence Horn, looked and said, 'I didn't turn the machine on.'
I had to sing it again. So, the second time I sang it, there's a little bit of anger there because I had to repeat it. It was a straight performance and that's why it sounds live. I think that's the secret of the success of the hit - the fact that I had to do it again, and I did it without a mistake or without any interruption, and the feeling was just right on that song."
Regarding the message Marvin Gaye was sending in the song, Reeves said: "The words are very simple: he wanted everybody to dance in the street. Everybody to rejoice and have a very good time. It was a hot, #1 hit, and it spread love all over the world. When you play it today, people get up and do what? Dance!"