The song was the title track and theme of the Soul Cinema Classicfilm of the same name. Relating the song to the travails of the movie's leading character, named "Mister T", and also relating to issues in his private life, Marvin called it one of the most honest recordings he ever made. Gaye played drums and piano on the record as well as performing all the vocals himself, in which he sings most of the song in falsetto while reaching a gospel-styled growl during the bridges of the song.
The performances of the song during Marvin's later concerts became one of his highlights during his 1970s and early 1980s tours. The song was also used as two instrumental "theme songs" on the accompanying album, in which Marvin played synthesizers to accompany saxophone solos from his musicians. Marvin also recorded a slightly different version of the song primarily for the movie's opening, in which he sang in both tenor and falsetto.
The album version of the song was the only one released as a single in November 1972 where it became a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 reaching number seven on that chart in January 1973. The song became one of Marvin's signature songs for the remainder of his life and would later be the basis of a biography and would be a sort of nickname/alias for Gaye.