Friday, May 20, 2011

what's going on

Marvin Gaye broke free from the Motown hit machine and changed the face of popular music with this poignant, personal expression of hope and anger in the midst of troubled times. 'What's Going On' was conceived as a concept album from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran returning home. After the death of his singing partner Tammi Terrell, Gaye had fallen into a deep depression.

"I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say... I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world."

The landmark title song was written with Al Cleveland and Renaldo "Obie" Benson and originally intended for another group; but they convinced Gaye to record his own version. The song was a departure from the Motown sound and Barry Gordy was resistant to releasing it. Gaye insisted and the single sold faster than any Motown single before.

"Oh, you know we've got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today"

The single of 'What's Going On' was such a success that Gordy wanted a whole album in the same vein. Given complete freedom in the studio, it took Marvin ten days to record it with the Funk Brothers. 

 The environmental concern of 'Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)' became the next single. It was the only song on the album written only by Gaye. It , too, was a million selling hit, driving the album up the charts as well.

"What about this overcrowded land?
How much more abuse from man can you stand?"

'Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)' broke records as his third single in a row to hit the top of the R&B chart as well as the pop top ten. It typified the jazz approach where everyone contributed musical ideas in the studio and the song was built around their jam sessions.

"Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing
Panic is spreading
God know where we're heading"

'What's Going On'
full album:

All songs produced by Marvin Gaye.

Original LP

Side one
1. "What's Going On" Al Cleveland, Marvin Gaye, Renaldo "Obie" Benson 3:53
2. "What's Happening Brother" Gaye, James Nyx Jr. 2:43
3. "Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)" Gaye, Anna Gordy Gaye, Elgie Stover 3:49
4. "Save the Children" Cleveland, Benson, Gaye 4:03
5. "God Is Love" Gaye, A. Gaye, Stover, Nyx 1:41
6. "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" Gaye 3:16
Side two
7. "Right On" Earl DeRouen, Gaye 7:31
8. "Wholy Holy" Benson, Cleveland, Gaye 3:08
9. "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" Gaye, Nyx 5:26

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