4 Songs You Didn’t Know Marvin Gaye Wrote for Other Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

He was the “Prince of Soul,” the “Prince of Motown.” Helping shape the sound of Motown as a session drummer for groups like The Miracles and The Marvelettes, recording duets with Mary Wells, Diana Ross, and Kim Weston, and penning hits for other artists, including Martha and The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye soon began writing and producing his own songs from the ’60s through early 1980s.

Also recording hits written by songwriting legends like Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (“I Heard it Through the Grapevine”), Smokey Robinson (“Ain’t That Peculiar”), and the trio of Brian Holland, Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier (“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)),” Gaye penned his own chart-toppers. Those include the 1963 releases “Pride and Joy” and “Hitch Hike,” his groundbreaking album What’s Going On in 1971 (also listed in the National Recording Registry), the No. 1 hit “Let’s Get It On” in 1973, and his final hit, the Grammy Award-winning “Sexual Healing,” released on his 17th and final album, Midnight Love, in 1982.

Gaye, who died tragically in 1984 at the age of 44, was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 as well as the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His catalog of songs has been covered by everyone from Diana Ross, Kate Bush, The Strokes, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, and others.

In between his own catalog of hits, here are four songs Gaye wrote for other artists to record. 

1. “Beechwood 4-5789,” The Marvelettes (1962)
Written by Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson, and George Gordy

Pulled from the now-defunct telephone exchange names of telephone numbers, “Beechwood 4-5789” was released on The Marvelettes‘ third album, Playboy, in 1962. Produced by William Stevenson, who is also credited as a co-writer, the song also features Marvin Gaye on drums. The Carpenters also made “Beechwood 4-5789” a hit later on when they released their own rendition of the song in 1982.

You can have this dance with me
You can hold my hand and
Whisper in my ear sweet words that I love to hear

Oh, baby
Don’t be shy (don’t be shy)
Just take your time (just take your time)
I’d like to get to know you (like to get to know you)
I’d like to make you mine (like to make you mine)

I’ve been waiting, standing here so patiently
For you to come over and have this dance with me

And my number is Beechwood 4-5789
You can call me up and have a date any old time

 2. “Dancing In The Street,” Martha and the Vandellas (1965)
Written by Marvin Gaye, Ivy Hunter, and William Stevenson

Off Martha and the Vandellas’ 1965 album, Dance Party, “Dancing In The Street” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song became a signature track for Motown and for Martha Reeves and The Vandellas with everyone from Little Richard, Mamas & the Papas, Grateful Dead, The Kinks, Van Halen, The Struts, and more giving the song a whirl as a cover over the decades, including David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s No. 1 duet in 1985.

The song took on two different meanings. On one end, “Dancing In The Street” was used as a song of protest and as a civil rights anthem by many young black demonstrators, while Martha Reeves said the song was also just meant to be a party song.

Calling out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right
For dancing in the street
They’re dancing in Chicago (Dancing in the street)
Down in New Orleans (Dancing in the street)
In New York City (Dancing in the street)

All we need is music, sweet music
(Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet music)
There’ll be music everywhere (Everywhere)
There’ll be swinging, swaying
And records playing
Dancing in the street, oh

3. “When You Are Available,” The Elgins (1968)
Written by Marvin Gaye

Though the Motown vocal group hit it big with their 1966 hit, “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” written by the team of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, The Elgins had more success throughout the 1960s. Given their name “Elgins” by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy—a name that was used briefly by The Temptations—the group released more sweet-talking tunes, including one written by Marvin Gaye called “When You Are Available.”

4. “The Bells,” The Originals (1970)
Written by Marvin Gaye, Anna Gordy Gaye, Iris Gordy, and Elgie Stover

Peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on the Hot Black Singles chart, “The Bells” was one of four songs Marvin Gaye wrote for R&B soul group The Originals. First writing their 1969 hit “Baby I’m For Real” with his then-wife Anna Gordy Gaye, Marvin Gaye went on to write “The Bells” and “We Can Make it Baby,” both released in 1970.

I’ll never hear the bells if you leave me
I’ll never hear the bells
I’ll never hear the bells if you leave me
I’ll never hear the bells
Do you hear what I hear
When your lips are kissing mine
Do you hear the bells honey
Do you hear them ringing
When I’m kissing you baby
What do I have to do 
To make you feel the tingling too

Photo: Rob Verhorst/Redferns

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