This song was one of two debut singles from Marvin Gaye's first album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye. The other was the little-heard pop ballad "(I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over," credited to "Marvin Gay." The decision to release two very different songs in the same week was the result of two clashing egos. The stubborn 21-year-old singer refused to record anything but a Jazz album, but Motown CEO Berry Gordy convinced him to add a few R&B numbers in the tradition of the label's signature sound, one of them being "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide." Although the latter track became a local favorite in Detroit, neither broke onto the charts. Later that year, Motown darling Mary Wells recorded the song for her own debut album, Bye Bye Baby I Don't Want to Take a Chance.
Just prior to signing with Tamla/Motown Records and releasing his debut album in 1961, Marvin Gay made a subtle change to his surname by adding an "e," though the reason remains unclear. Some stories claim Gaye was influenced by the King of Jazz, Sam Cooke (whose own decision to add an "e" is still debated), while others claim the singer wanted to avoid any whispers about his sexuality. Regardless, one little letter marked the distinction between a fledgling crooner and a rising R&B star.