Forty-five years ago this month, Marvin Gaye’s highly-regarded movie soundtrack album, Trouble Man, was issued on Motown’s Tamla label. When released as a single, the title song became a Top 10 hit on the pop and R&B charts, Marvin’s first such success after the three Top 10 tracks from What’s Going On.
“The Trouble Man film score was one of my loveliest projects, and one of the great sleepers of our time,” Marvin told London-based journalist Paul Gambaccini several years after its release. He added, “I enjoyed that job immensely. I enjoyed writing a film score. I’d love to do more. I think it’s probably some of my finer work.”
The movie for which Marvin wrote the score was part of the “blaxploitation” genre, popular in the early 1970s, and epitomised by Shaft and Superfly – both of which yielded big-selling soundtrack albums for Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield, respectively.
Marvin wrote the entire score for Trouble Man, recording it in Los Angeles during the fall of 1972. He sang and played keyboards (piano and synthesizer), working with several arrangers. One was Dale Oehler, who was responsible for arranging the version of the title song released as a single. “Marvin wanted a jazz sound,” Oehler was later quoted as saying. “When I asked him how much, he said, ‘Go all out.’ ”
Years later, at a benefit concert, Joni Mitchell chose “Trouble Man” as one of two songs with which to close the show. “In the process of learning it for performance, I discovered how truly original and eccentric the form of it is,” she wrote in liner notes for the Motown/Hip-OSelect 40th anniversary CD reissue of the soundtrack album. “It was a challenging piece of music to learn.”
The Trouble Man soundtrack was released on December 8, 1972, preceded by Marvin’s title-track single, issued November 21.
Trouble Man is available in the Classic Motown store here at a discounted price for a limited time period. Don’t miss out!