Take Cover! The Twilight Singers Vs. Marvin Gaye

When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week the Twilight Singers take on Marvin Gaye’s “Please Stay (Once You Go Away).” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!

Marvin Gaye’s 12th studio album, Let’s Get It On, is widely regarded as one of the best and most sexually charged pop albums of all time. It was also one of Gaye’s most successful, arriving in 1973 hot on the heels of What’s Going On, a landmark soul collection in its own right. Broadly, each album addressed different topics—politics on the former, sex on the latter—but they shared a few qualities that said as much about Gaye as the times he thrived in. That is, What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On showed Gaye to be a musical visionary who was no longer content working within the confines of the Motown Sound; that Gaye, like John Coltrane before him, partly viewed his most important work through a theological lens (Let’s Get It On, in particular, has been understood by some to be as much a paean to God’s love as A Love Supreme); and that Gaye’s impact reached far beyond music in the latter half of the Vietnam years. His thoughtful, intensely earnest meditations on love and war during the early ’70s saw to that.

The primal nature of Let’s Get It On should not be undersold, however. Whatever Gaye meant to telegraph between the lines of his groundbreaking R&B work will never be more titillating than the sex and sensuality firmly planted on the album’s surface. Yes, Gaye may’ve been trying to exercise a few existential demons wrought by his conflicted, fundamentalist upbringing when he tracked the album, but that conversation is better left to the thought-piece cognoscenti. Indeed, as evidenced in the one-two opening punch of “Let’s Get It On” and “Please Stay (Once You Go Away),” Gaye is primarily fixated on sex and emotional security, the kind that’s so tenuous when a partner tends to obscure his/her desire for anything more than coital transaction. Alas, Gaye was no part-time lover. At least in song.

Despite being altered significantly, “Please Stay” finds a doting caretaker in the Twilight Singers’ Greg Dulli, who, through his work fronting the Afghan Whigs in the ’90s and the Singers and Gutter Twins since, has always been fixated on soul music and sex. He often approaches love from a darker, less optimistic place than Gaye, to be sure, but his reverence for the fairer gender is incontestable. The dude loves women.

Cast your vote wisely.

The Cover:

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The Original:

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6 Comments

  1. Tim M
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Great freakin song, but to truly get the Twilight Singers version you have to play the lead in song, “A Love Supreme” – John Coltrane. The two just have to go together!

  2. Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Who can choose? after all it’s Marvin Gaye. I get what I feel and need from Mr. Dulli, The Twilight Singers, no doubt perhaps a more sublime interpretation introduced by a master, Mr. Gaye we miss you always, but I see a thread of your soul and fire in Greg Dulli, The Twilight Singers et al…

  3. Posted May 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the Singers’ version is more complete when played after A Love Supreme but it’s just so raw and full of passion that it still takes the lead. It’s my favourite of their covers and can still give me shivers sometimes.

  4. Herb Roe
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Tim M., you have to hear the opening provided by the other song. I also love how the end of A Love Supreme weaves in threads of the Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil(listen close). I’ve always liked how the three song titles go together , A Love Supreme Stay Dont Go Away Sympathy for the Devil.

  5. laneena
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    all of the above comments are valid and I agree (mostly) Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, therefore- I will vote for Marvin! Lucky enough to have seen both…both of these GENTLEMEN are truly one of a kind. May have been a fairer comparison if GD had same sort of back-up (ie:Susan Marshall or ?) anyways ~ that is my 2 cents

  6. t. drew hardin
    Posted May 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Gotta go with The Man, the one who helped to define Soul, R&B, Rock n’ Roll, et al. I do, indeed, like Twilight Singers’ version but eventually it melts into a homogenized Indie-rock rendition that smacks a little of ennui. God bless Marvin Gaye who ,to paraphrase Frank Capra, started trends not followed them.