Even cheap mp3s on iTunes cost money, and it can be daunting to a financially challenged music fan to build a library of music that you may only be curious about. In the Essential Download Series, we’ll take a look at groundbreaking and influential artists and give you a place to start your own exploration of their music. In this installment, the man who changed the music industry by taking control of his own production and career, which in turned paved the way for multitudes of musicians afterward. Plus, that voice...

 

In the 1960s, Marvin Gaye had a string of hits on the Motown label as a solo artist and most notably with singer Tammi Terrell, but it was his work in the early 1970s that resonates the strongest today. Much of it was so groundbreaking that every R&B, soul and rock artist in the ensuing years had a hard time not emulating his sound and feel. Plus, that voice... 

 

Let's Get It On (1973) This is the song that is instantly recognizable as a Marvin Gaye tune. More a plea of angst than a come on, Gaye's most succesful single was a voicing of his own confusion stemming from childhood abuse and the pressures of immense fame. The recording is about as pristine a record from the time period as you'll ever hear.    

 

Got To Give It Up (Part 1) (1977) After pressure from his record label to stay abreast of current trends, Gaye produced a disco record only he could produce, and it was a monster hit - across all genres.

 

Inner City Blues (1971) If you think things are tense now, Inner City Blues is a perfect glimpse into what things were like in 1971. The tension of the arrangement masterfully reproduces the tension of the street.

 

What's Goin' On? (1971) The title track from Gaye's 1971 landmark release, an album still considered as one of the greatest albums of the 20th Century. Gaye's theme of political strife and dissatisfaction is perfeclty mirrored by the arrangement which pulls the listener away from the madness outside toward an internal contemplation of the times.

 

I Want You (1976) After the successes of What's Goin' On? and Let's Get It On, Gaye went back to his 1960s well of hits but maintained the unmistakable sound and formula of his 1970s work. This song doesn't reach the level of accomplishment as his early 1970s work, but it's still a strong hit all on its own.

 

I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968) Written in 1966 by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, everyone in the Motown stable of acts wanted this song for their own. Gladys Knight beat them all to the punch in 1967. The Miracles released their version in 1968 and a few months later Gaye follwed suit. It was Gaye's version that had the biggest chart impact.

 

Sexual Healing (1982) Living as a tax exile in Belgium and suffering from depression and the effects of his withdrawal from a serious cocaine habit, Gaye had a middling hit with his new label (Columbia), that steadily became a mainstay of everyone;s 1980s "Best of" lists. If you're a fan of remixes (or not), check out the brilliant remix by Kygo.

  

Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) (1971) War and race were joined by new-found concerns of environmental destruction on Gaye's 1971 What's Goin' On? At this point, you should just go out and get the album, seriously, it's a complete classic and a must-have, go get it.