“I Want You” by Marvin Gaye 

It’s funny to think that when Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” was dropped about half a century ago, some people seem to have actually deemed it too raunchy to play in public. There is what can be called a sexual undertone to it all, in that the thesis sentiment revolves around a man, the vocalist, earnestly ‘wanting’ a certain lady, the addressee. In other words, if a man ‘wants’ a woman romantically, then the implication is that said feeling is based in large part on sexual attraction.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Marvin Gaye's I Want You at Lyrics.org.

But once we delve into the verses, it becomes more obvious that what we’re dealing with here is actually a case of unreciprocated love. The vocalist is clearly in love with the addressee, but he is convinced that the feeling is not mutual.

And it should be pointed out that the first line of the chorus actually reads, in full, “I want you – the right way”. So taken the verses into consideration, in that particular sense it doesn’t sound like the vocalist is referring to anything sexual at all. Instead, what he appears to be saying is that he wants the apple of his eye to genuinely feel the same way about him, instead of, shall we say, fronting like she does.

But this is Marvin Gaye we’re talking about. And once Trouble Man gets to building up some momentum, it’s like his artistry just oozes with sexuality. So as the song progresses and leads into the outro, his pleadings with the addressee starts to read more and more like yearnings of the loins.


So conclusively yes, this song does possess a palpable physical component. But the Gaye isn’t feening for feening’s sake. Instead the way he’s coming off like this is because, on a more emotional level, he is being denied the thing he seeks, which is the addressee’s heart.

Lyrics for Marvin Gaye's "I Want You"

When was “I Want You” released?

This is not only the title track but also the lead single from what was Marvin Gaye’s 14th studio album (as a soloist). In that latter regard Tamla Records, which is also known as Motown, made the track public on 1 April 1976.

Popular Usage of “I Want You”

Marvin Gaye’s life was cut short in 1984 at the age of 44. But he remains one of the most influential and regarded singers in American music history. For instance, as is somewhat usual with his songs, “I Want You” has been sampled/interpolated numerous times throughout the years. And it has been done so by the likes of these greats:

  • Lionel Richie (“I Wanna Take You Down”, 1994)
  • Mary J. Blige (“Be Happy”, 1994)
  • Pet Shop Boys (“Between Two Islands”, 2002)
  • Logic (“I’m Gone”, 2014)

Most recently (as of the writing of this post), by Kendrick Lamar on his 2022 track “The Heart Part 5“. 

Additionally, it has been covered by A listers Madonna (1995) and Diana Ross (2006). 

Song’s Success

This tune is noted as being a Gaye fan favorite during the latter stages of his career, though one of many he’s dropped that topped Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

“I Want You” also made it onto the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. In 1977, this classic went on to receive a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It however, lost the award to Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish”.

Did Marvin Gaye write “I Want You”?

No. This song was written and co-produced by Leon Ware (1940-2017) and Arthur “T-Boy” Ross (1949-1996), two musicians who were instrumental in developing Motown during the label’s heyday. As an interesting side note, the latter’s big sister is Diana Ross, one of the biggest stars to ascend from the Motown brand. Also, the other producer of “I Want You” was Marvin Gaye himself.

The late Leon Ware may be a name you never heard before. But on top of his behind-the-scenes’ contributions to Motown. He also put together a personal discography spanning five decades. In fact he and T-Boy composed this song to be sung by Ware himself. However, once Motown head honcho Berry Gordy got a gander of it, he rather opted to give it to Marvin Gaye, who was very hot at the time.

But if Marvin Gaye didn’t compose this song, how is it about his relationship with Janis Hunter?

It is true Gaye did not have a hand in writing “I Want You”. However, interestingly enough he was able to relate it to his relationship with one Janis Hunter (who Marvin went on to marry in 1977) at the time.

Cover Art

The cover art to “I Want You” (the album) may look familiar to some readers, even if they never came across said LP before. Well the name of that painting is “Sugar Shack”, itself being quite famous and also the one that was featured on the popular 1970s’ African-American sitcom Good Times.

I Want You


Part of the reason Marvin Gaye’s artistry was considered to be so influential and controversial even is because he was a pioneer in terms of introducing more-overt sexuality to mainstream music. In fact it has been said, informally, that Marvin’s long-standing beef with his father (who eventually killed him) was in part due to his dad, who was a Christian minister, not agreeing with his son’s brand of music. But interesting to note is that according to Leon Ware, right before the creation of “I Want You” (the album), Gaye “was on a religious sabbatical” and “had sworn off ever doing another commercial record again”.

Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” Album

“I Want You” is an album by American singer Marvin Gaye. It shares the same title with its first single, “I Want You”. The album was released on March 16 of 1976 as Marvin’s 14th studio album.

Recording of the album took place in two recording studios, Marvin’s own recording studio in Los Angeles, known as Marvin’s Room and Hitsville West (Motown Recording Studios) in Detroit.

Marvin, a record producer himself, collaborated with two other American record producers, Leon Ware and Arthur “T-Boy” Ross to complete the album’s production process.   

The album was officially commercially released through American record label Tamla Records, a subsidiary of Motown Records.

The album peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, becoming the American singer’s fourth album to rank top-10 on that chart.

“I Want You” received a lot of praise from music publications, musicians and music critics, including renowned artists like Madonna, Robert Palmer and Todd Rundgren. The three admitted being influenced by the album.   

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