Greetings everyone and welcome to another edition of Famous Albums and Songs. My name is Professor Everett C.J. Whitfield.
Recently, in 2020, The Rolling Stones Magazine ranked this album as the #1 album of all time out of 500 recordings. According to acclaimed music, it is holding the #7 spot as the most celebrated album in music history. Marvin Gaye’s album “What Going On”, outlived him. It turned 50 years old on May 21, 2021. The music and songs are still being played and heard of today. The message is deeply needed to be heard in the day of age as we are facing turmoil in this world. Instead of writing in a paragraph form, I will give you some major key points.
1) This was Marvin’s 11th studio album. It was his first time being listed as a producer, writer, and arranger for an album. It was the first Motown album that listed every musician that played on the album. It was the first album that acknowledged The Funk Brothers.
2) After the success of the single, “What’s Going On, Motown gave Marvin Gaye 30 days to come up with an album. Marvin did this whole album in 10 days with 12 hours of recording time on one song.
3) The album cover of the “What’s Going On” album picture was taken in the month of March, when it was sleeting at his home on West Outer Drive in Detroit, Michigan. He just put on a suit and jacket and took the picture in his backyard.
4) James Jameson, the profound bass player of Motown, recorded the majority of the songs while lying on the floor. When he was done, He went home and told his wife, “I recorded the best album in my life.”
5) Marvin told Smokey Robinson, “God is using me to record this album. I am just his instrument.”
6) The What’s Going On is the first Motown album to list the lyrics.
7) The What’s Going On album touches these subjects a) The Ecology (The Environment)
b) War c) Police Brutality d) Drug Usage
e) Unemployment f) Urban and social issues g) Peace. H) Having a relationship with God and mankind
8.) Mel Farr, Bobby Rogers of The Miracles, and Lem Barney, NFL Hall of Famer and member of Kappa Alpha Psi, sang background vocals on What’s Going On.
9) Marvin Gaye was going through a depression because his singing partner, Tammi Terrell, died at the age of 23. Through his depression, he tried out for the Detroit Lions team, but he was cut.
10) Marvin got rid of his clean cut image and decided to let his beard grow for the first time.
11) The album was nominated for two Grammy Awards but he lost to Lou Rawls, in which he never got over it.
12) This was the first album in music history to have 3 Top 10 singles and 3 #1 R&B songs from an album.
What’s Going On ………………….#1 R&B/#2 Pop
(Spring of 1971)
Mercy, Mercy Me…………………..#1 R&B/#4 Pop
(Summer of 1971)
Inner City Blues …………………..#1 R&B/#9 Pop
(Fall of 1971)
What’s Going On………………#1 R&B/#6 Pop
The album sold over 3 million copies. It is still a hot seller still till this day. In this day of time, as we experience systemic racisms in education, social, law, health, and other things, Marvin touched on these subjects in an indirect way. He stated, “My purpose in life is to awake the human spirit.” He did just that with this album. This album is !!
Written by: Everett Whitfield