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"Sexual Healing" is a 1982 song recorded by American soul singer Marvin Gaye on the Columbia Records label. It was his first single since his exit from his long-term record label Motown earlier in the year, following the release of the In Our Lifetime album the previous year.

Original version

Released off his 1982 album, Midnight Love, the song not only became his biggest hit in five years, but also brought Gaye back to the top of the pop music world five years after his last big hit, "Got to Give It Up".

By holding the number-one spot of the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart for ten weeks, it was the longest-running R&B number-one single of the 1980s. "Sexual Healing" eventually hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1983. It would unfortunately be Gaye's last top five hit in the U.S., as he died a year later.

It also became an international and global hit reaching number four on the UK Singles Chart—giving Gaye his first UK top ten hit in five years since "Got to Give It Up"—and number one in New Zealand where it stayed at the top spot for six consecutive weeks. It also hit the top three in the Netherlands, number seventeen in Sweden, and number one on Canada's RPM Singles chart, then the main chart for Canada's music sales.

Furthermore, the single garnered him his first gold certificate by RIAA for sales of over 1,000,000 copies (it has since been certified platinum by the RIAA, which means since 1986 sales of over a million, since then gold single status begins with 500,000 units sold) and finally won Gaye, after being nominated for a Grammy Award no less than ten times in his career, the first Grammy Awards of his multi-dimensional career, winning him Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male and Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1983. It also won him his first American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single in 1983. The song was later ranked number 231 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


The music and lyrics were composed by Gaye, Odell Brown, and David Ritz. The song discussed a man's aching for finding sexual salvation with his woman—hence the title "Sexual Healing". According to Ritz, when he interviewed Gaye for an autobiography, he noticed comic book pornography in Gaye's room and mentioned to the singer that he "needed sexual healing" causing Gaye to tell Ritz to write a poem, after noting the rough draft of Ritz's lyrics, Gaye wrote his share of the lyrics and recorded the song while in Ostendmarker, Belgium. The final mix was recorded in Waterloomarker, Belgium, the site where Gaye addressed CBS Records executives about the song. Some saw the song as Gaye's harmonious plea to sex in the form of him preaching the word of gospel, marrying his divided soul. According to a recent article, this song was the first hit single to use the Roland TR-808, though it would not become common fodder, the TR-808 was mainly used to produce songs of electronica and hip hop genres.

In the final lyric to the song, Gaye sings "It's not good to masturbate" as the music fades out.

Covers versions and references

Since its release, "Sexual Healing" has become one of the most influential singles in pop music having been covered by several artists including Phish and blue-eyed soul singers such as Michael Bolton. It has also become a staple for hip hop samples by artists such as Big Daddy Kane (his 1989 song "Smooth Operator" samples a bit from the song using interpolations of Gaye singing "operate" from the track) and Erick Sermon (who sampled the song on his 2001 song "I'm Hot"). Rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony interpolated Gaye's "Get up, get up, get up, get up/Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up" chant from "Sexual Healing" for their 1995 hit "1st of tha Month". The backing beat was also sampled for a remix of Keith Sweat's 1996 hit "Twisted".

Master P used elements of the song on "Bourbon and Lacs" for 1997's Ghetto D, a song about the lives of "playas" in the New Orleansmarker area. In 1993, alternative rock band Soul Asylum contributed a cover to the AIDS benefit compilation album No Alternative. American/Jamaicanmarker dance group Max-A-Million also performed a modern version of "Sexual Healing", which was an R&B-type remix of the original reggae rendition Max-A-Million recorded. This version performed by Max-A-Million, which included the original lyrics only featured a more upbeat rhythm and rap-like verses of the songs (that were added) proved to be a popular and well-known mix of the song, especially to the younger audience who at the time may have not heard the original reggae mix. It was released in 1996 and was well-received by R&B fans.

The song has been covered by Ben Harper in many of his live concerts and remains one of his most popular songs.

In 2002, Darren Hayes recorded a cover during a Capital Radio session.

In 2005, English singer–songwriter Kate Bush released her Celtic-accented cover of "Sexual Healing" as the B-side to "King of the Mountain", her first new material in twelve years. That same year Clam (featuring VDC) released a cover.

The song was also covered by the English indietronica group Hot Chip as the B-side to their 2006 single "Over and Over".

In July 2006, the song received notoriety in Australia, when Today Tonight performed a report on the controversies of music and how some songs encourage kids to have sex at a young age, with the Pussycat Dolls' "Buttons" and Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous" being heavily criticized. The report went further to criticize "Sexual Healing" as another song that encouraged kids to have sex back in the 1980s. However, many music gurus and fans would normally recognize the song to be a "classic hit from a legendary singer."

In 2007, this song was remixed by Alibi vs. Rockefeller with a new music video featuring three female dancers dressed as nurses (Lauren Ridealgh, Bayley Darling, and Stephanie Fitzpatrick). It charted at number thirty-four on the UK Singles Chart. There are two versions of this video: one version is censored and the other uncensored for late-night viewing, with the latter version being twelve seconds longer. The song was featured on the Abercrombie & Fitch July 2007 Playlist.

The song was also covered by German singer Sarah Connor and American singer Ne-Yo.

The song plays a prominent role in a scene from the 2002 film I Spy.

The song is also featured on the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories on the radio station VCFL.

Most recently, the original version of the song made a cameo appearance in the 2007 live action film Transformers in which Bumblebee plays while pretending to break down at some romantic spot, while Sam Witwicky (played by Shia LaBeouf) drives Mikaela Banes (played by Megan Fox) home, thus hinting at his obvious sexual interest in her.


  • Lead vocals by Marvin Gaye
  • Background vocals by Marvin Gaye, Harvey Fuqua and Gordon Banks
  • Guitars by Gordon Banks
  • Drums, keyboards, synthesizers, organ, orchestra bells, glockenspiel, bells, finger cymbals, bongoes and congas by Marvin Gaye
  • Written by David Ritz, Marvin Gaye and Odell Brown
  • Produced by Marvin Gaye


Chart (1982/1983) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 1
Dutch Top 40 3
New Zealand Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 17
UK Singles Chart 4
U.S. Billboard Pop Singles 3
U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Club Play Singles 8

Chart procession and succession

Soul Asylum version

"Sexual Healing" was covered in 1993 by Minneapolismarker alternative rock band Soul Asylum for the charity compilation No Alternative. Despite not being promoted as a single, the song managed to peak at number ten on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks.


Chart (1993) Peak
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 10

Sarah Connor version

In 2007, the song was covered by German singer–songwriter Sarah Connor for her studio album of covers, Soulicious (2007). A re-recorded version featuring American singer–songwriter Ne-Yo was released as the album's second single on 29 June 2007. It should be noted that on the same album Connor performed a posthumous duet with Gaye entitled "Your Precious Love".

The song's music video is placed in the story of the 1986 erotic drama film 9½ Weeks featuring representative scenes from the film e.g. the well-known "ice scene" or Connor being fed by a Ne-Yo doppelgänger. Ne-Yo himself was not available the day the music video was shot so the Ne-Yo doppelgänger was used. Connor stated that she was slightly drunk during the shoot of the video. Just a few days after the video was first broadcasted on German television, Internet forums began to discuss the video's controversial content and its sexual indications such as the "milk-squirting scene", which resembled pornographic ejaculation scenes.

Track listing

European CD single
  1. "Sexual Healing" (Video Version featuring Ne-Yo) – 3:52
  2. "Sexual Healing" (Original Radio Edit) – 3:51

European CD maxi single
  1. "Sexual Healing" (Video Version featuring Ne-Yo) – 3:52
  2. "Sexual Healing" (Original Radio Edit) – 3:51
  3. "Get It Right" – 4:20
  4. "Sexual Healing" (Video featuring Ne-Yo) – 4:04
  5. Online Access: Making of "Sexual Healing"


Chart (2007) Peak
Austrian Singles Chart 45
European Hot 100 Singles 44
German Singles Chart 11
Swiss Singles Chart 41


  2. VIVA Live! episode aired on VIVA; June 6, 2007 at 3 PM.

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