Looking Back On Marvin Gaye’s Greatest Live Performances

Today would have been Marvin Gaye’s 76th birthday, and to honor the occasion, we’re looking back at some of Gaye’s finest live performances. The man was a consummate performer, and his talents really show in these videos. In addition to being a brilliant vocalist and songwriter, Gaye had a powerful stage persona, which can be felt in all of these five clips.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – with Tammi Terrell (1967)

Before breaking out as a solo artist in the early ’70s, Gaye performed many hits with Tammi Terrell. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was one of their biggest hits. In this clip, from an unknown TV show, the chemistry between the pair is undeniable.

“What’s Goin’ On” (1983)

This is a brilliant and powerful performance. After a thoughtful three-minute monologue about America’s history of racism, and the struggle for civil rights, Gaye launches into a fantastic rendition of what is widely considered to be his best song. If you want to explain why Marvin Gaye mattered so much in one clip, this would be the one to choose.

“Let’s Get It On” – Soul Train (1974)

While I don’t have the raw numbers on this, it would not shock me if “Let’s Get It On” holds the record for “song that the most children were conceived to.” And in this performance, Gaye is as smooth as ever. When Gaye sings “I’m asking you to get it on with me” while looking at an attractive audience member, it’s hard not to wonder if he was just singing a song, or if he literally meant it. A passionate performance of one of Gaye’s best songs.

“Got To Give It Up” – Live In Montreux

There’s been some controversy surrounding this song after the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit (where Gaye’s estate was awarded over 7 million dollars), none of which affect this song’s status as a stone cold classic. This eight-minute version from Montreaux is as tight as ever, featuring a killer performance from Gaye’s backing band.

“The Star Spangled Banner” – 1983 NBA All-Star Game


One of the best — and most creative — renditions of our national anthem ever performed. Additionally, this was a huge moment for the NBA, which was just beginning to develop a TV audience. Gaye’s brilliant performance gave the All-Star game an extra bit of gravitas, and now, NBA All-Star weekend is one of the most anticipated events in sports.