12/14/2012 11:51 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2012

Marvin Gaye First Hit Single 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine,' Remembered

On this day in history...

Marvin Gaye scored his first #1 hit with "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

The Motown Records ditty was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and had been recorded previously by at least two other groups on the label: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Gladys Knight & The Pips.

But it was Gaye who took the song and made it his own. Released on October 30, 1968, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" reached the top of the Billboard chart on December 14, 1968. Listen closely, and you can hear the Funk Brothers, the famed Detroit sessions band, playing on the track, as well as strings performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which had been arranged by Detroit's own Paul Riser.

Writes This Day In Music:

The session featuring Gaye led to arguments between the producer and singer; Whitfield struggled to convince Gaye to perform the song in a high rasp, a move that had worked on David Ruffin during the recording of The Temptations' hit, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg". Whitfield was later described by several Motown employees as "cocky" and "arrogant" but "always got what he wanted out of the performer". Marvin eventually agreed to record it in Whitfield's key and the song later led to a change in the singer's vocals.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked Gaye as number six on its "Greatest Singers of All Time" list and number 18 on the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" list.

A biopic of the Motown star featuring musician Lenny Kravitz in the lead role will be shot next year. Were Gaye alive, he would be 73 years old today.

What's your favorite Marvin Gaye song?

Marvin Gaye's Hits

Hat tip to This Day In Music