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 Grooveand 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.

Be sure to hit the Download Resources button above in order to download the PDF transcription for this piece (available to subscribers only). The transcription is available WITH TAB and WITHOUT. Please note that a backing track is NOT included with this course. The track used in the play-along can be purchased from

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