Reel Soundtrack | Trouble Man

Photo of Marvin Gaye

On the heels of creating one of the most revered albums of all-time, Marvin Gaye produced his first and only movie soundtrack for the film, Trouble Man. The result is an album that has dwarfed the movie that this great music was featured.

The twelfth album from Gaye was the soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation film of the same name, Trouble Man. The soundtrack, itself, was a more contemporary move for Gaye, following his landmark politically charged album What’s Going On.

The success of What’s Going On, won Gaye considerable creative control, as well as a renewed $1 million contract with Motown subsidiary Tamla. The resulting deal made Gaye, then, the most profitable R&B artist of all time.

The following year, Gaye sought to take advantage of his opportunities. Bolstered by the successes of his contemporaries, Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield and their film soundtracks such as Shaft and Superfly, Motown offered the musician a chance to compose his own film soundtrack after winning rights to produce the crime thriller, Trouble Man.

Unlike Hayes and Mayfield, who mixed social commentary with sexual songs in their respective soundtracks, Gaye chose to focus primarily on the film’s character, Mister T, producing and composing both the film’s score while entirely producing the film’s soundtrack, which he recorded at Motown Studios (or “Hitsville West”) in Hollywood.

Following the closing of Detroit’s Hitsville USA studios in 1972, Motown had primarily moved its location to Los Angeles, where Gaye also relocated where he recorded the Trouble Man album. Gaye invited several musicians, including some from the Funk Brothers and musicians from Hamilton Bohannon’s band to play on the memorable session.

Gaye would compose five different versions of the title track, including an alternate vocal version, which was used primarily for the film’s intro. The alternate version featured Gaye double-tracking two lead vocal parts into one, bringing his falsetto vocals with his tenor on top of the falsetto. The single version, which was also featured on the soundtrack, would feature a single lead vocal take. The other three versions were put on the album as instrumentals with Gaye providing synthesizer keyboards while saxophone solos (and occasionally guitar) accompany him.

The only other songs in which Gaye vocalized harmonies or performed lead vocals included Poor Abbey Walsh, Cleo’s Apartment, Life is a Gamble, Don’t Mess with Mister T and There Goes Mister T.

Bolstered by the hit success of the title track, which returned Gaye to a blues format, the album followed in December where it reached the top 20 of the Billboard 200, peaking at #12.

Trouble Man would become Gaye’s only soundtrack and film score. Critics gave the album favorable reviews while sometimes comparing Gaye’s soundtrack efforts to that of Hayes’ and Mayfield’s. Following this, other R&B musicians would produce soundtracks of their own, including James Brown, Barry White and fellow Motown acts, Willie Hutch and Edwin Starr.

The album has grown in stature over the year and recently was referenced positively in the film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with Falcon (Anthony Mackie) calling it the most important thing Captain America (Chris Evans) missed during his cryogenic slumber.

Today, not many people can tell you who starred in the film, EVERYONE can still tell you who created this timeless music!!!

Check out the soundtrack, below: