Sexual Healing

Album: Midnight Love (1982)
Charted: 4 3
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Songfacts®:

  • Gaye wrote this in Ostend, a resort town on the coast of Belgium. He went there in 1981 to relax and recover from his drug problems. He stayed for 18 months before returning to the US.
  • The renown writer David Ritz gave Gaye the idea for this song. Gaye had a large collection of pornography, to the point that many of his friends felt he was addicted to porn. When he noticed the collection, Ritz told Gaye he needed some "Sexual Healing," and Marvin had him write some words which became the lyrics to the song. Ritz told Songwriter Universe: "As I was writing the lyric, I was trying to capture Marvin's voice and style as a singer. He said, 'That lyric sounds like me.' The lyric seemed to fit into his philosophical musings and his personal, emotional needs, so he could sing about it with complete honesty."

    Gaye had invited Ritz to Ostend to help write his biography - Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. Ritz has also written biographies for Ray Charles, Buddy Guy, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King and Janet Jackson.
  • David Ritz was not given a writing credit for this, but was thanked in the liner notes for inspiring the song title. This broke his friendship with Gaye, as Ritz sued for a songwriter credit. Co-composer Odell Brown, who was also Gaye's keyboard player, claimed he didn't have any knowledge of Ritz's contribution to the song title, let alone any lyrics. After Gaye died, Ritz won his case and got the credit, which now reads: Odell Brown/Marvin Gaye/David Ritz.
  • Gaye had a lot of success writing very sexual songs and built a reputation as a ladies' man, but he was the son of a preacher and struggled with his religious values. This conflict tormented him for years and inspired the biography title Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, by David Ritz.
  • This was one of the first songs to use the Roland TR-808 drum machine, and the first mainstream hit to do so. Gaye and collaborator Gordon Banks programmed the machine, which was introduced in 1980 but hadn't appeared on a hit song until Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force showed up with "Planet Rock" earlier in 1982. The 808 became a staple of the hip-hop sound, but R&B veered toward the Linn LM-1, which used real drum samples.
  • When Gaye left Belgium and toured to support the Midnight Love album, he started using drugs again and became mentally unstable. He moved in with his parents and was shot and killed by his father after an argument on April 1, 1984 - the day before his 45th birthday. His father claimed he shot him in self-defense.
  • This was the first single Gaye released after leaving Motown Records. He spent 20 tumultuous years with the label, which included disputes over royalties and his marriage to and divorce from Berry Gordy's sister, Anna. He recorded this album for CBS Records.
  • This won the 1982 Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. The instrumental version also won for Best R&B Instrumental.
  • DJ Max-A-Million did a remix of this song in 1995 that became very popular in dance clubs. Michael Bolton covered the song in 2000 for his Timeless: The Classics, Vol. 2 album. His version peaked at #28 on the US Adult Contemporary chart.

Comments: 11

  • Leon Lawson from Apopka FlNo one else besides Marvin and I can sing that song that like that if I can send you a tape of me singing sexual healing you would think that Marvin Gaye never passed away
  • Oliver Clothesoff from Seattle, WaNothing personal, but I have yet to hear a Kate Bush cover of ANYTHING that I find acceptable.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenIf he wasn't addicted to drugs, I bet he was addicted to sex.
  • Siahara Shyne Carter from United StatesAre you kidding me? I like it :D

    I also first watched in MTV
  • Piper Bailey from San Francisco, GaI absolutely love this site and finding all these artists that I used to listen to when I was younger it really brings me back. Marvin Gaye was one of my idols and the news of his death killed a part of me as corny as that sounds, but his spirit lives on. I hope this new generation doesn't forget where real music came from. May he rest in peace forever. Teena Marie wrote an older song called My Dear Mr. Gaye dedicated to Marvin. If you have not yet heard this song, I strongly recommend it. She says that he will always be in every woman's heart and I'll bethe first to testify to that.
  • Chris from Charleston, ScInterestingly, this song uses a Roland TR-808 drum machine.
  • Jl from Bretagne, FranceKate Bush cover is ... er.. Ok. Let's say acceptable. It's still a good song. But Ben Harper's numerous live versions for this song are much better. Still the original keeps that special taste that makes it so sensually healing.
  • Maxim from Brugge, Belgiumthings whent the way gaye wanted them to...
    as far as i know, gaye bought the gun himself and asked his father to shoot him...
    his father also said "i am going to take him out befor a white man does"
    and there also is a minor default in the writer credits with sexual healing... David Ritz had no credits in writing the song, only in its title...
    gaye told ritz when he said to him "you need some sexual healing" - "that would make a fine title" and that gaye would mension his name on the album, ritz later sued him and won...

    if you can read a little dutch here's a link:
    http://www.humo.be/dehumofiles/2004/gaye.htm

    if my info is incorect, sorry and please report :)
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumA very beautiful song. If Marvin Gaye stayed in Belgium, maby he would still be there. It's just too bad things happened like that. He had a beautiful voice and I love most of his songs.
  • Edan from Melbourne, AustraliaOkay firstly. This has now been covered by Ben Harper as a tribute to Gaye.
    Secondly this song helped and hindered Gaye after his fall from the top it helped him get back to the top but he also managed to restart his drug addiction which annoyed his friends.
  • C.j. from Hof / Saale, GermanyGet hold of the 'Sexual Healing Sessions' to get an idea of how the recording of this classic song (and Gaye's last original album) evolved.
    C.J. Ganter, Hof / Saale (Germany)
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