For the first couple of years of Marvin Gaye’s chart career, he had two audiences that didn’t often meet. By late 1964, his soul fans had made him a Motown heartthrob and he’d enjoyed no fewer than seven top ten R&B hits. But only one of those, “Pride & Joy,” had made the top ten of the pop chart. On 21 November, 1964, Gaye entered the Hot 100 what would would become a new crossover success and a top tenner on both surveys, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).”
In the U.K., the single became Marvin’s second charting record when it made No.49 for just one week on the listings for 12 December, 1964; four months earlier “Once Upon A Time” had become his first hit when it too spent a week on the charts, but it could only make No.50 on the U.K. bestseller list.
The Holland-Dozier-Holland song made its Hot 100 debut on that chart of precisely 53 years ago at No. 88. As Gaye became a proper crossover star, it would progress all the way to No. 6 by the end of January, and No. 3 R&B. Coincidentally, the No. 1 single that week was “Baby Love” by the Supremes and Motown had another six singles on the Hot 100, for a grand total of eight, including another Marvin track, his duet with Kim Weston, “What Good Am I Without You.”
Never shy of recycling a great song, Motown scored another top three R&B success with the composition, and top 20 pop, less than two years later, when it was covered by Jr. Walker and the All Stars. Of the myriad later interpretations, James Taylor’s is probably the most memorable, typifying the ease with which he could adapt old soul and pop hits to his acoustic style and taking the song to No. 5 on the U.S. pop chart again in 1975.
Listen to “How Sweet It Is” on the Marvin Gaye album How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You: