Whats Really Going On….


Before the release of the album Whats Going On Marvin Gayes music was simpler and dare I say sexier. He made love songs for short encounters. He made music that didn’t necessary push any envelopes. But times were changing, the world was changing. “I remember I was listening to a tune of mine playing on the radio, “Pretty Little Baby,” when the announcer interrupted with news about the [1965] Watts riot. My stomach got real tight and my heart started beating like crazy. I wanted to throw the radio down and burn all the…songs I’d been singing…. Why didn’t our music have anything to do with this?” (Marvin Gaye, Whats Going On Now) After his singing partner passed away Marvin Gaye went into a deep depression. I think anyone in his shoes would have. Many great albums have came from artists in their lowest stages, as was true when learning about Brian Eno and his work with David Bowie on the album Low. He always had an amazing voice, whether it was simple pop songs for the masses, or deep stories of protest and sorrow. America getting ready to enter the Vietnam War, and recent assassinations had changed what Marvin Gaye wanted to record songs about. Especially after his brother returned home from service and told him the horror stories of the war.


The main obstacles he face was his manager Gordy. He first heard the record ‘Whats Going On’ and hated it. He thought it would ruin his, and Gayes careers. After reluctantly releasing the single and watching it skyrocket on the charts, he changed his mind and told Gaye to give him an entire album full of similar stories. He had the passion and the inspiration to tell stories that pop and RnB had never heard before. He gave us an album that would never be forgotten.


The characteristics that separated this release from many that came before and after were subtle, but defining a new direction for pop and RnB. The instrumentation was a little darker, and I feel like the low end was much more prominent than other recordings. It still had all the groove and rhythm Marvin was known for, but with a lot more depth and perceived meaning.


Over the last month, this album was steadily became one of my favorites. Like a lot of music from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s it just makes me wish I could travel back, and hear it all for the first time. The album is deep, like depth you just don’t hear anymore. Even with the Likes of Bono, I feel like Marvin Gaye just told the story better. The message was the headlines of the song, it wasn’t about glamor or glitz, it was just a story that he felt we all needed to hear. I love its production, I love the way its mixed, and I love the lyrical content.


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