Marvin Gaye

I could not begin to explain how Marvin Gaye was a revolutionary artist in the funk and soul music era.  Before his release, “What’s Going On”, Marvin Gaye was known for his love songs, which shaped soul and funk music in the 60’s and 70’s. However at this point Gaye was mostly putting out singles. With, “What’s Going On”, Marvin Gaye wanted to shed light on a subject of a completely different paradigm. It would go on to be his first concept album. The majority of 60’s and early 70’s themed music was love and peace, however, race was a huge problem still in the states and the Vietnam war became a discredit to America due to what was supposed to be a time of peace. Gaye wrote the album through inspiration from his brother, Frankie Gaye, who had served in Vietnam and suffered through what common day would be called PTSD. Frankie’s story along with the help of songwriter, Obie Benson, who would later write the song, “What’s Going On”.  Found in, “What Went On”, and article “The Guardian” by Ben Edmonds, Gaye asked his brother, Frankie, what he could do to help.  Frankie told him, “Your Music”.  Marvin did just that. At first, most were against it. Motown, the record label Marvin was signed to, would not release it due to disagreements between the owner of Motown and how Marvin felt about singles vs. concept albums. But Marvin knew in his heart that “What’s Going On” would be a great success. So, while waiting for it to be released, Gaye refused to record any more songs.  To pass the time Marvin even attempted to become a professional football player for the Detroit Lions, a dream that would be short lived.  Marvin faced much controversy from Berry Gordy, as Gordy wanted Gaye to release, ”What’s Going On”, as a single, which Gaye refused.  Gaye fought through many struggles including being completely broke, which Gordy was sure would change Gaye’s mind about releasing the song, he was wrong according to Edmonds’s article.  And just as elaborate as its content, “What’s Going On” was also a masterfully produced album as well.  With doubles on the lead vocals, which was never done before on a Marvin Gaye album before “What’s Going On,” and backgrounds, the album had a fresh production style never used before on the previous albums.  Further more, Gaye could have no chosen more talented musicians, and example would be the notorious saxophone solo being recorded as just a warm up from Van Depitte.  As an aspiring professional in this industry, this album gave me a whole different out look on what an album actually means. Both beautiful and tragic, “What’s Going On” hits close to home with such impact that anyone listening can feel the emotion.


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