My recent double dip into the Marvin Gaye discography was a welcome return home for me. When The Adios Lounge began 6 years ago, I envisioned it as a place where I’d explore classic R&B and country more or less equally with whatever rock band I was currently obsessing over. However, within the first year or two, R&B gave way to punk. It wasn’t anything intentional, it just happened organically. Part of it was the fact that several music blogs were already covering blues, R&B, and soul as well as I could, but not that many people were writing about punk. I’d rather fill a vacuum than a crowd, so punk and indie rock became more of a focus.
Of course, what I REALLY love writing about is how Music A informs Music B and how exploring A and B allows you see both differently. So, it’s within that framework that we revisit Gaye. He was one of the benchmark R&B singers of the 20th century, with enough pop sensibility to crossover, and enough gospel in his voice that you knew he meant business. And yet, he also occupies an interesting niche in rock history. As it happens, an obscure-ish 1964 Marvin Gaye single was the first song heard in The Last Waltz, and the final song ever played by the original Band. When Robbie Robertson says, “We’re gonna do one more song and that’s it,” that was it.
The Band — Don’t Do It
Winterland, San Francisco
November 25, 1976
The Band actually released “Baby Don’t You Do It” as a single (retitled “Don’t Do It”) in the fall of 1972. In Europe, Capitol used the live version from Rock Of Ages, which was released earlier that year. In the US, Capitol used a studio outtake recorded around the time of The Brown Album. However, someone forgot to inform the pressing plant because the label actually says, “From the LP, Rock Of Ages.” Nice vetting process, Capitol. Don’t do it, indeed.
While most of us are familiar with versions by The Band, The Who, and maybe even The Small Faces — “Baby Don’t You Do It” was something of a mod staple back in the mid-’60s — I’d venture to say that Marvin’s original is an obscurity by comparison. Let’s change that.
Marvin Gaye – Baby Don’t You Do It
Not a bad song at all, but it’s missing something, probably Robbie Robertson’s guitar. Marvin’s vocal is solid, the backup vocals by The Andantes are good, and it’s hard to ever complain about The Funk Brothers on backup, especially the drumming of Uriel Jones (heard to similar effect on The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” two years later). If there’s fault to be found, it’s in the Holland–Dozier–Holland production team. I don’t know if it needs a melodic hook or a better middle eighth or what, but “Baby Don’t You Do It” is second tier Marvin. Obviously HDH are first ballot Hall of Famers, but hey, they can’t all be “This Old Heart Of Mine” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)!”