The Marvin Gaye Guide to
Unique and Exceptional Content

Marvin Gaye

Smart online marketers and publishers know the secret to success is unique content. And yet, that’s often easier said than done.

Social media is filled to the brim with regurgitated news, views, advice and tutorials. The original idea that everyone’s unique opinion would make the difference just isn’t holding up.

It takes something more than your opinion. Because, you know… everyone’s got one of those.

To create unique content even with rehashed subject matter, you’ve got to add more unique value. All it takes is a lot of thought and a healthy dose of courage.

What’s This Got to Do With Marvin Gaye?

So, maybe you’re wondering what’s going on with the Marvin Gaye reference.

On the off chance you’re not familiar with Marvin Gaye, he was Motown’s top-selling solo artist during the sixties, and ranked by Rolling Stone as #6 in its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time. Part of what made Marvin so great was his unique approach to soulful songwriting and performance.

But how can Marvin Gaye help you when everyone’s doing the same ol’ thing? Well, watch and listen to his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, and maybe you’ll find your own unique inspiration that sets you apart from the pack.

About the Author: Brian Clark is Executive Editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells and DIY Themes. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Reader Comments (38)

  1. says

    Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is coming out in theaters later this year. We’ve all seen this story done in countless ways, many times. Why see Burton’s? Because of the way he’ll tell the story. We all have the various versions of the same vocabulary, yet it tumbles from our lips in endless combinations.

    It isn’t what we say, so much as how we say it.

  2. says

    You know we got to find a way . . . to bring some lovin’ here today . . .

    Oops, sorry, not trading quotes on Twitter. Thanks for bringing some Marvin into my day. Always welcome.

  3. says

    I’m not convinced that just some unknown schlub would have received the same response from the crowd even if he delivered the exact same performance. That is, part of the excitement of the performance was that it was delivered by Marvin Gaye. A lot of people who have fresh talent, great ideas, and courage won’t necessarily achieve comparable success.

  4. says

    Nice, Brian.

    Small point: I know, from gruesome personal experience, that comparing yourself to the “Greats” in anything can crush your spirit.

    I nearly threw away my guitar… and did quit pursuing a dream of becoming a cartoonist… because I couldn’t compete with my heroes in those areas.

    Listening to Marvin here reminds me of that blind alley. There are stories of singers quitting after opening a show for certain acts, like anything from Motown or Memphis.

    And sometimes, that’s a good decision. You can’t be good at everything.

    Other times, though, you just gotta find your own groove. Some of the most successful singers in pop would be humiliated to have to follow Marvin… so they don’t even try. There are many other ways to shine, from Zappa to Weird Al Yankovich to Willie Nelson and on.

    Listening to Marvin is a treat. He’s a national treasure. And you’ll probably never hear anyone with any self-respect attempt to cover “What’s Going On”.

    So don’t copy him. Love him, and find your own path.

    It’s worth fumbling around for a while, allowing yourself to experiment without the self-criticism. When you find your groove, you’ll know.

    We all have one. Most never find it, cuz they never search.

    Marvin did.

  5. says

    John, exactly. We all have to make that personal search and take the time to find it. Then, we have to roll with it (that’s where the courage part comes in).

  6. says

    Speaking of unique and exceptional content, I believe this post qualifies, Brian. Very nice. I agree with you that the key is the ability to discover your unique way of delivering the message, and the courage to do it in the face of its “differentness”

  7. says

    When I was in a women’s chorus…and we were not firing on all six cylinders, our director, Patty, would plead, “Tell the story!” And when we did, then..and only then…did the music sound its best.

    I believe good singing, like good writing, is all about putting feeling into what you’re doing.

    And telling the story.

  8. says

    When the artist doesn’t feel and express passion or incorporate her unique vocal intonations, her music’s “got no soul.”

    A beautiful voice without soul is like a luxury car without a fuel tank. If it doesn’t “move” you, what’s the point?

    Btw, heard it through the grapevine that this was a good read. I know, I know… major groaner. :-)

  9. says

    This is a great reminder to listen to your own creative voice to breathe new life in what’s familiar. The Marvin Gaye video is a nice way to illustrate the point.

  10. says

    Great post, in that it’s not the whole, it’s a part of the whole.

    When you add the video, the post of James’ that you linked to AND the comments, THEN it’s complete or further along the way to being complete.

    Of course having JCarl and the slagmeister add to the conversation, in different ways, from different vantage points, is just like sizzlin’ your steak in butter !

  11. says

    Wonderful post! You make so many points. Uniqueness is key, but we also have to accept some criticism. As much as we may appreciate this rendition now, from what I’ve heard, Marvin got a lot of flack for it back in the day.

    Also, this post broke my heart a little, because if he had been alive, Marvin surely would have performed at the Inauguration yesterday.

  12. says


    Come to think of it.

    That is one of the pillars of teaching sells also, right?

    Man, you are so good at this. You just have this gift of taking one topic/subject and presenting it in more than 1000 ways.

    Best part is that it still make a lot of sense.

    Picture making 20-30 years old content and re purposing to fit this “new age”

    Great publisher you are .

    I can’t wait to send this post to my list!

  13. says

    …from what I’ve heard, Marvin got a lot of flack for it back in the day.

    He took quite a bit of flack. Not as much as Hendrix at Woodstock or Jose Feliciano in 1968, but still… even in 1983 it was a brave move by a black man at a major sporting event.

    Now, 26 years later, we have a black President of the United States. That’s why I’ll never give up on this place, even though we do things at our own maddening pace.

  14. says

    Wow. It’s the first time I’ve seen and heard Marvin Gaye’s version. Very very different from those who sing this just to show that they could belt. This one’s effortless in terms of singing but it’s got a lot of soul in it.

  15. says

    very good point. social media cannot be effectively leveraged without a theme, a game plan and a decent site or service. this post will inspire me to try harder

  16. says

    Even more inspiring is that Marvin Gaye wanted to sing Country and Western not soul music. Amazing that he took what was given to him by his label and found a way to make it special.

  17. says

    Great take. As a classic rock fan I have appreciated the version of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘America’ that was done by Yes. While they maintained the integrity of the original they still made it completely their own.

    Easy to say. Tougher to do. Great thing to aspire to though when we decide how we add to the online space. Will we be heard and make an impact or will we be part of the noise and add nothing but more noise?

    Thanks for making me remember and to think to get better.

  18. says

    A thought provoking post, as usual. Putting aside our discussion yesterday on Twitter about Gaye v. Franklin, great idea. I’d add, “location, location, location” to the mix.

    You have a choice to read the news on NY Times website, WSJ website, Google news, Google reader, Yahoo news, Yahoo RSS feeder, etc. Why do you choose one location over the other?

    How many locations in cyberspace can you read about “Internet Marketing”? Conventional wisdom says that you’ll choose your location where the writer provides, flagship, valuable, and useful content. Who would argue that point?

    But, I think there’s other, more subjective reasons for choosing one location over another. You pick your locations where you feel at home. This feeling originates with the following:
    1. The writer’s personalty that’s conveyed through writing style
    2. The quality of the comments
    3. The appealing design of the site
    4. The respect shown by the writer to her readers
    5. The respect shown by commenters to the writer, and to each other

    For example, News reports are available to me through my online subscription to the NYT, WSJ, Google Reader, Reuters, CNN,Yahoo RSS feeds. But, I love getting news updates from @asyncnow15news on my twitter deck. Great info, and I love the interaction I have with @asyncnow15news.

    Another example, I follow a number of Internet marketers, because it’s a passion of mine. But for me, two sites stand out over all the others. Sure, there’s great content on all the sites I follow. But, I love the feel I get from these 2 sites, the tone of the writers, the respect shown by the writers and commenters to each other, and the design of the sites. It feels like home to me.

    Has anyone watched the George Stephanopoulos
    Sunday morning roundtable? Flagship content without the shouting. Everyone listens, and responds with respect. Reminds me of some of the great times I had growing up when my family sat down for dinner every night at 6 p.m. (before soccer traveling teams were started).

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

  19. says


    It’s funny. I stopped by your website to read an old post about how to write headlines. When I arrived, I read your Marvin Gaye post, and took post a comment.

    Of course, being 60 years old and very forgetful, I forgot to read the headlines post. Well, I’m back to do what I originally stopped to do. Getting old makes you strong.

  20. says

    One of the interesting patterns I’ve noticed of the greats is … they impress themselves first.

    Rather than guessing at what other people want them to be, they create the result they’d like to see. It’s inside out.

    That’s the confidence and courage thing.

  21. says

    Great analogy and advice about standing out (in a good way) when it comes to blogging. Thank you for posting that video of one of the best versions of The Star Spangled Banner.

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