Marvin Gaye was on fire in 1968. The Motown star had been having hits for six years, and had topped the U.S. R&B charts twice already, both times in 1965. But in the year that he turned 29, there was no stopping him.
He had three Billboard soul No. 1s in the space of six months in ‘68, two of them with one of his great duet partners, Tammi Terrell, who would tragically die of a brain tumour at the age of just 24. Today we remember when Marvin & Tammi made beautiful music and topped the R&B bestsellers, 48 years ago exactly, with “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
Gaye’s brace of 1965 chart-toppers, “I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar,” were prime examples of his ebullient early recording style, but by 1968 he was creating a smoother, more sophisticated soul that would pave the way for his defining work of the early 1970s.
In June of that year, his inspired teaming with Philadelphia-born singer Terrell, which had produced the previous year’s soul and pop hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” took them to No. 1 R&B, and No. 8 pop, with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.”
Within just 12 weeks, the exact same formula of performers and writers rang the bell again. On the R&B chart for the week of August 31, 1968, Gaye & Terrell’s new Ashford & Simpson creation “You’re All I Need To Get By” started a five-week run at No. 1, also hitting No. 7 on the pop chart. Of his many and varied duets throughout his career, this was the most successful. Another ten weeks on, before Christmas 1968, Gaye would be at the chart summit again with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”
“You’re All I Need To Get By” was the lead song from Marvin and Tammi’s second duets album You’re All I Need, which was released a month after the single. Ashford & Simpson sing backing vocals on the song, which has inspired countless cover recordings, from Aretha Franklin’s version to collaborations between Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams, and Elton John & Marcella Detroit.
Listen to the album here: