Got to Give It Up

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"Got to Give It Up"
Picture sleeve for one of U.S. vinyl singles
Single by Marvin Gaye
from the album Live at the London Palladium
A-side"Got to Give It Up" (Pt. 1)
B-side"Got to Give It Up" (Pt. 2)
ReleasedMarch 15, 1977
RecordedDecember 1976
StudioMarvin's Room, Los Angeles, California
Length11:52 (full-length version)
4:12 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Marvin Gaye
Producer(s)Art Stewart
Marvin Gaye singles chronology
"Since I Had You"
"Got to Give It Up"
"Pops, We Love You (A Tribute to Father)"
(w/Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder & Smokey Robinson; 1978)

"Got to Give It Up" is a song by American music artist Marvin Gaye. Written by the singer and produced by Art Stewart as a response to a request from Gaye's record label that he perform disco music, it was released in March 1977.

Upon its release, it topped three different Billboard charts and became a worldwide success. Gaye sometimes used the song to open his concerts. The song has been covered by several acts.


Throughout 1976, Marvin Gaye's popularity was still at a high in America and abroad, but the singer struggled throughout the year due to pending lawsuits from former bandmates. Divorce court proceedings between Gaye and first wife Anna Gordy had put a strain on him. Financial difficulties almost led to imprisonment for the singer when Gordy accused him of failing to pay child support payments for their only child, son Marvin Pentz Gaye III.

To relieve Gaye from his debt, his European concert promoter Jeffrey Kruger booked the singer on a lengthy European tour. Gaye began the tour in the United Kingdom where he had a strong fan base dating back to his early career in the 1960s, making his first stop in the country since 1964. His performances there were given rave reviews. One of the shows, filmed at London's Palladium, was recorded for a live album, later released as Live at the London Palladium, in the spring of 1977. Around the same time, Gaye's label Motown tried to get the artist to record disco music, the current sound of the times. Gaye criticized the music, claiming it lacked substance and vowed against recording in the genre. His label mate Diana Ross had recorded "Love Hangover", her first disco song. The song's producer Hal Davis debated over giving that song to either Ross or Gaye. After working over the song, he went with Ross, and it became her fourth solo number one hit. Motown struggled to get Gaye in the studio as Gaye focused on work on an album (which later was released as Here, My Dear, dedicated to Gaye's troubled first marriage). After months of holding off from recording anything resembling disco, the singer set upon writing a song parodying a disco setting.


The first recording session for "Got to Give It Up", originally titled "Dancing Lady", was on December 13, 1976. Influenced by Johnnie Taylor's hit "Disco Lady", Gaye was inspired to create his answer song to Taylor's hit. To help set up a "disco" atmosphere, Gaye hired Motown producer and engineer Art Stewart to oversee the song's production. Gaye and Stewart brought in several musicians and Gaye's friends, his brother Frankie, and girlfriend Janis Hunter to Marvin's Room, Gaye's recording studio complex. From December 14 to 17, 1976, Gaye performed the lead vocal track, instrumentation (which included Gaye, Fernando Harkness, Johnny McGhee, Frankie Beverly and Bugsy Wilcox and Funk Brother member Jack Ashford) and background vocals. In the song, Gaye added background vocals from his brother and his girlfriend. During the second half of the song, the song introduces vocal layered doo-wop styled scatting from Gaye and produced a funk-influenced vamp. Fernando Harkness performs a tenor saxophone solo in the second half of the song.

Gaye recorded his vocals on the first date of sessions, adding instrumentation on the following day, and then adding other effects in the latter two days, mixing it by January 1977. Influenced by the vocal chatter on his previous hit "What's Going On", Gaye decided to create a party scene outside the recording studio where different voices are heard either greeting each other or partying. Gaye is heard on the track greeting people and laughing while mingling in with the crowd. During the bridge, Gaye is heard yelling "Say Don! Hey man, I didn't know you was in here!" The "Don" later was confirmed as Soul Train host Don Cornelius, who was one of Gaye's close friends. Gaye overlapped the party sounds over and over, making a loop. In the second half of the song, Gaye sings mainly the initial title, "dancing lady" over and over while a saxophone is playing a solo. All the background vocals on the second part of the song were from Gaye. He also played percussion, bass keyboards and RMI synthesisers in the final fade of the song. In the second half, he can be heard playing on a glass bottle halfway filled with grapefruit juice.[1] L.T.D. guitarist Johnny McGhee added guitar. McGhee and Frankie Beverly were the only non-bandmates featured on the song playing instruments. Beverly also added assorted percussion.


After the start of the song, which includes vocal chatter, the song kicks off with a standard drum beat: kick, snare and hi-hat, and synthesizers are heard soon afterward. After nearly a minute, Gaye's vocals appear in a falsetto, which he sings in for most of the song. In the second half, after harmonizing in falsetto, Gaye's tenor vocals take over.

The song's story focuses on a man who is a wallflower when he comes into a nightclub nervous to perform on the dance floor. But after a minute of this, the music takes over and his body starts to lose any inhibitions. Midway, he finally cuts loose before shouting the chant "non-stop express, party y'all; feel no distress, I'm at my best — let's dance, let's shout, gettin' funky what it's all about!" proving the power of the dance can overtake any shyness. The dance is focused on Gaye and a suitable female partner he seeks. In the second half, a funkier jazz arrangement is helped in guitar, bass and a tambourine. After this, he continues chanting until the song fades.

Release and reaction[edit]

The record was released in March 1977 and eventually topped the U.S. Billboard charts. The song held the number one position on the US Billboard Hot 100 for one week, from June 18 to 25, 1977. It replaced "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, and was replaced by "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti. On the R&B singles charts, it held the number one spot for five weeks from April 30 until June 17, 1977 (being interrupted twice at the number one position for one week by "Whodunit" by Tavares for the week of May 21, 1977 and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" for the week of May 28, 1977 respectively).[2] On the disco charts, the single was a number one hit.[3] Billboard ranked it as the No. 20 song of 1977.

It reached number one on the dance charts in May. The single also found success outside the United States reaching number seven on the UK Singles Chart, his biggest charted hit as a solo artist since his version of "Abraham, Martin & John" had peaked at number nine on the chart in 1970. Previously, Gaye had modest success with two singles: "Save the Children" (released as a double-A side with Gaye's 1966 recording "Little Darling (I Need You)") in 1971 and "Let's Get It On" in 1973 (which peaked at number 31 on the UK chart). The single also found modest success in some countries, peaking at number 24 on the Dutch singles chart and number 31 on the New Zealand charts. The single's success helped its parent album Live at the London Palladium find substantial success on the Billboard 200, where it stayed at the top 10 for several weeks. Sales of the album eventually reached two million.


Gaye's song became an important influence and motivation for Michael Jackson, who was searching to write a potential hit after The Jacksons had struggled with previous offerings. Jackson later wrote, with brother Randy, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)", adapting parts of Gaye's chant, transforming it into "let's dance, let's shout, shake your body down to the ground". The song "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough", written solely by Jackson and recorded the same year as "Shake Your Body", took even more of Gaye's approach with "Got to Give It Up", using percussive instruments and a continued funk guitar riff. Jackson sings most of the song in falsetto. Jackson's producer Quincy Jones added in string instruments used during the instrumental intro and a synthesizer guitar during the song's bridge. Much like the party chatter in "Got to Give It Up", Jones added in vocal chatter; however, the chatter later was debated as two people having a verbal argument while the tape was recording (a woman could be heard hollering "I love your little ass anyway!"). Jones allowed the argument in the recording.

"Got to Give It Up" has been featured in the films Menace II Society (1993), Boogie Nights (1997), Practical Magic (1998), Summer of Sam (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Barbershop (2002), This Christmas (2007), Eat Pray Love (2010), Paul (2011), and Da 5 Bloods (2020).

The song was featured in the television shows The Wire, True Blood, and Scandal.

The 2013 hit single "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and song co-writer T.I. was the subject of a lawsuit for allegedly copying "Got to Give It Up". Thicke originally told the public both he and Williams were in the recording studio, and suddenly Thicke told Pharrell "Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove" and they wrote the song in less than an hour. However, Thicke later claimed this was all a lie, and the song was written entirely by Pharrell.[4] Thicke stated "I was high on Vicodin and alcohol when I showed up at the studio."[5] On March 10, 2015, a federal jury found "Blurred Lines" infringed on "Got to Give It Up" and awarded nearly $7.4 million to Gaye's children. Jurors found against Williams and Thicke, but held harmless the record company and T.I.[6] While damages were reduced to $5.3 million, the jury's decision was upheld on appeal.[7] As an additional remedy, Gaye was credited as a songwriter for "Blurred Lines".[8] This in turn affected "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of "Blurred Lines", titled "Word Crimes", where Gaye has been added as a songwriter.[9]


  • Written and composed by Marvin Gaye
  • Produced and engineered by Art Stewart
  • Mixing by Art Stewart and Marvin Gaye
  • Marvin Gaye: Lead Vocals, RMI synthesizer bass, keyboards, percussion, bottle
  • Johnny McGhee: guitar
  • Gordon Banks: guitar (Part II)
  • Fernando Harkness: saxophone
  • Bugsy Wilcox: drums
  • Jack Ashford: tambourine
  • Frankie Gaye: background vocals (Part I)
  • Janis Gaye: background vocals (Part I)
  • Vocal, rhythm and synthesizer arrangement by Marvin Gaye
  • Background vocals by Marvin Gaye (Part II)


Chart (1977) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Hot Soul Singles 1
US National Disco Action 1
Canadian RPM Top Singles 5
Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique 5
Dutch Top 40 24
VRT Top 30 21
New Zealand Singles Chart 31
UK Singles Chart 7


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[10] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Aaliyah version[edit]

American singer Aaliyah recorded a cover version of the song for her second studio album One in a Million. It featured a guest appearance from rapper Slick Rick, and it was released as the album's second single in certain international markets on October 8, 1996.

"Got to Give It Up"
Single by Aaliyah featuring Slick Rick
from the album One in a Million
B-side"No Days Go By"
ReleasedOctober 8, 1996
RecordedOctober 1995[11]
StudioSpectrum Studios
(Greensboro, NC)
Larrabee Studios
(Los Angeles)
Length4:02 (radio edit)
4:41 (album version)
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Slick Rick
Aaliyah singles chronology
"If Your Girl Only Knew"
"Got to Give It Up"
"One in a Million"
Slick Rick singles chronology
"I Like"
"Got to Give It Up"
"Street Talkin'"

Background and recording[edit]

Aaliyah decided to record "Got to Give It Up" because she wanted to have party songs on the album.[12] In an interview Aaliyah stated "I wanted some real party songs, so when my uncle played me that [original track], I thought of how I could make it different. Slick Rick [who had been in jail] was on work release at the time, so Vincent got him on the song".[12] Producer Craig King recalls that when Aaliyah was recording "Got To Give It Up" she was dancing the entire time.[13]

During the recording process of the song the producers sat for hours writing down the lyrics because they did not know them.[13] King stated "To me, the funniest part was trying to figure out the lyrics. Marvin Gaye sang in such a crazy way, a lot of words we didn't know. We had to sit there for hours making sure we were writing it down properly. We still think we might've gotten some words wrong.[13] Also during the recording process the producers changed about five words in the song so that they could fit for Aaliyah.[13] The overall goal while recording this song was to make it fit in within the current time so the producers did not want it to sound too dated.[13] According to King, "We didn't want it to sound like it was from the '70s so we changed some lyrics because some of the words just wouldn't work in the '90s like 'suga mama.'"[13] Aaliyah was proud to cover this song, and she said "I don't know how Marvin Gaye fans will react, but I hope they like it. I always think it's a great compliment when people remake songs. I hope one day after I'm not here that people will cover my songs".[12]


On "Got to Give It Up", Aaliyah places her falsetto "toe to toe against the liquid overlapping rhyme scheme of hip hop's ultimate storyteller slick rick".[14] According to Bob Waliszewski from Plugged In, the song lyrically is about finding "a man in a dance club ordering alcohol".[15] Aaliyah's version of the song features a sample from the song "Billie Jean" performed by Michael Jackson.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

When reviewing Aaliyah's second album One in a Million, writer Dream Hampton from Vibe was shocked with the outcome of "Got to Give It Up".[17] According to Hampton, "The album has some surprises too. Like any self respecting Marvin Gaye fan, I cringed when I Learned Aaliyah had covered his classic 1977 party jam "Got to Give It Up". But her version is agreeably accurate (even with Slick Rick's snippet of an intro)".[17] Hampton also wrote that Aaliyah was just as convincing as Gaye when it comes to the song's theme of being a wall flower.[17] Connie Johnson from the Los Angeles Times wrote that Aaliyah's skills were being displayed on the song and that her version of "Got to Give It Up" was irresistible.[18] Writer Dean Van Nguyen from The Independent praised Aaliyah's voice on the song, writing that she sounded great.[19]

Chart performance[edit]

The song was a minor hit in the UK, peaking at number 37 on the UK Singles Chart, and the song peaked within the top 10 on the UK R&B and UK dance charts. In New Zealand, the song peaked at number 34.


Chart (1996-1997) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[20] 34
Scotland (OCC)[21] 98
UK Singles (OCC)[22] 37
UK Dance (OCC)[23] 10
UK R&B (OCC)[24] 4

Recordings by other artists[edit]

Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders included the song on his 1977 album Love Will Find a Way. Another saxophonist David Sanborn included the song on his 1994 album Hearsay.[25] Urban Knights, a contemporary jazz group led by legendary pianist Ramsey Lewis performed a version of this song that was included on their 2003 album Urban Knights V.[26][27] A second known instrumental version is by saxophonist Kim Waters from his 2007 album You Are My Lady.[28][29] The song has been featured in several films and soundtracks since its release, including the soundtracks to movies such as 54, Summer of Sam and The Nanny Diaries; it was featured in the movies Charlie's Angels, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Menace 2 Society and Barbershop. Justin Timberlake performed the song live at the 2008 Fashion Rocks concert. Gaye's daughter Nona recorded an unreleased version with Prince's band New Power Generation. Zhane performed this song on a tribute album of various artists titled Marvin Is 60. The song was performed by Thom Yorke's band Atoms for Peace during a live concert performance.[30] In 2015, South African band Van Coke Kartel released their version of the song.


  1. ^ "Got to Give It Up – Marvin Gaye | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 225.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974–2003. Record Research. p. 108.
  4. ^ "Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to face Marvin Gaye's family in court over Blurred Lines plagiarism claims – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  5. ^ Eriq Gardner (15 September 2014). "Robin Thicke Admits Drug Abuse, Lying to Media in Wild "Blurred Lines" Deposition (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  6. ^ "Jurors hit Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams with $7.4-million verdict".
  7. ^ Sicario, Ben (March 21, 2018). "'Blurred Lines' Verdict Upheld by Appeals Court". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  8. ^ Sisario, Ben; Smith, Noah (March 10, 2015). "'Blurred Lines' Infringed on Marvin Gaye Copyright, Jury Rules". The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  9. ^ Fox, Jesse David (March 25, 2017). "Weird Al Yankovic Details Exactly How He Turned 'Blurred Lines' into 'Word Crimes'". Vulture. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "British single certifications – Marvin Gaye – Got to Give It Up - Pt 1". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  11. ^ "20 Questions" (Magazine). October 1995.
  12. ^ a b c "A look back 20 years to the debut album of Aaliyah, the R. Kelly scandal, and her Timbaland-produced follow-up that set the R&B format on fire". Wax Poetics. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Aaliyah Week: How 'One In A Million' Pushed The Envelope Of R&B". Vibe. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  14. ^ "Got to Give It Up". Vibe. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Waliszewski, Bob. "One in a Million Album Review". Plugged In. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  16. ^ "25 Days of Aaliyah: Got To Give It Up". BET. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c "Aaliyah One in a Million". Vibe. October 1996. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  18. ^ "Aaliyah's Spirit Sounds Like a 'Million". Los Angeles Times. September 28, 1996. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  19. ^ "'One in a Million' at 20: How Aaliyah forged pop's future". The Independent. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
  20. ^ " – Aaliyah – Got to Give It Up". Top 40 Singles.
  21. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
  22. ^ "Aaliyah: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  23. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  24. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  25. ^ "Hearsay overview".
  26. ^ "Urban Knights V overview".
  27. ^ "Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights". Archived from the original on 2004-06-22.
  28. ^ "You Are My Lady overview". AllMusic.
  29. ^ "You Are My Lady Kim Waters".
  30. ^ "Atoms For Peace cover Marvin Gaye's 'Got to Give It Up' – watch". Retrieved October 13, 2013.

External links[edit]