What’s Going On

1. Describe the music and image of Marvin Gaye prior to the recording of What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye was pretty well known prior to recording and releasing “What’s Going On.” His voice and piano skills got him signed to Motown records and he blew up from there. Marvin did it all from Jazz, R&B, Soul, Etc. His friend Tammi Terrell passed away due to a brain tumor and that affected Marvin Gaye. He then released 1 more album prior to What’s Going On and once he released What’s Going On in 1971, the album had a mixture of jazz and funk. This Album set him on the top of charts.


2. Discuss what social and national concerns influenced the lyrical content of What’s Going On

All along it was Marvin Gaye’s brother who gave him the influence to write his lyrical content. His brother was in the military and shared his stories with Marvin and that really frightened Marvin and from that point on, he opened his eyes to something more than what have seen and that’s what influenced Marvin.


3. Discuss who originally came up with the song idea and presented it to Marvin Gaye.

The idea was bought up to Marvin Gaye from Renaldo Obie Benson. He was a member of Motown vocal group with the Four Tops. He witnessed so much violence in the streets and wanted to know what was going on. He wrote the song and presented it to his group members but they turned him down because they believed the song was about protesting instead of love, as Benson would say. He then showed Gaye the song and Marvin tweaked the song to his liking and recorded it and named it “What’s Going On.”


4. Explain the obstacles faced by Marvin Gaye to get What’s Going On recorded and released

This song is such a powerful lyrical song especially because at the time there was protesting going on and people might understand the lyrics the wrong way. No one wanted to record and release this song and Marvin wanted otherwise. He begged his record label until finally they recorded it and released it. The album made a huge amount of money and the song was in the top charts.

5. Discuss a minimum of two characteristics of the What’s Going On album that set it apart from other soul recordings of the mid 1960s and 70s e.g. the contrast between the typical Motown releases and What’s Going On, production quality, instrumentation, studio musicians, lyrical themes, etc

What really set this album apart were Marvin Gaye’s lyrics to most of his songs, 3 of which made it to the top 10 I believe. He wrote about Love and at the time not many did that. His music had R&B and Jazz and Soul and everything that really get you in that smooth loving mood. He also talked about his struggles and the things he have been through. He made it personal and that is an artist most people can relate too when you write music.


6. What impression does What’s Going On have on you as a listener and as an industry professional?

As an industry professional, I must say Marvin Gaye was the best at what he did in his time. His music became known throughout the years and became a classic. People in this century still listen to him and as an artist that is one major accomplishment even after his death!


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