Marvin Gaye – ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’

‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ was written by songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1966 and was recorded by several artists signed to Berry Gordy’s Motown label.

The first version of the song was recorded by The Miracles, although it was rejected for release by Gordy, later appearing on their 1968 album Special Occasion. It was next recorded by Smokey Robinson, but again rejected by Gordy. In 1967 Marvin Gaye’s version was recorded but was once again rejected. An up-tempo version of the song was recorded for Gladys Knight and The Pips in 1967, largely as a reaction to the success Aretha Franklin had with ‘Respect’ on the rival Stax record label. Gladys Knight’s version features a very busy, complex bassline from bassist James Jamerson, one that will be covered in a separate tutorial. Marvin Gaye’s version of the song was included on his 1968 album In the Groove and proved so popular with the public that it was eventually released as a single. It was a number one hit, spending seven weeks at the top of the US chart, and going on to become the biggest selling record that Motown had up to that point.

This song is in the key of Eb minor and features a challenging bassline that contains almost no repetition at all. All of the key characteristics of James Jamerson’s playing are evident here: chord tone-based lines, enclosures, chromatic approach notes, syncopation and more.

When learning this piece, you might find the following courses (all included in the monthly subscription cost) useful:

A transcription (with TAB and without) is available for this course. To download it, please visit the Free Stuff page. Please note that a backing track is NOT included with this course. The track used in the play-along can be purchased from

This course is 45 MINUTES long and contains the following videos, each of which can be selected from the video player above: