What's Going On


What's Going On

Infobox Album
Name = What's Going On
Type = studio
Longtype =
Artist = Marvin Gaye


Released = May 21, 1971
Recorded = June 1970 and
MarchMay 1971
Hitsville U.S.A.
Golden World
United Sound Studios
(Detroit, Michigan)
The Sound Factory
(West Hollywood, California)
Genre = Soul, psychedelic soul
Length = 35:28
Label = Tamla
TS-310
Producer = Marvin Gaye
Reviews =
*Allmusic rating|5|5 [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:lg8e4jn70waw link]
*"Billboard" (favorable) [http://www.superseventies.com/spgayemarvin2.html link]
*Robert Christgau (B+) [http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Marvin+Gaye link]
*The Daily Vault (A-) [http://www.dailyvault.com/toc.php5?review=4611 link]
*"The Observer" Rating|5|5 [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/omm/reviews/story/0,,1150787,00.html link]
*"Q" rating|5|5 [http://www.tower.com/whats-going-on-deluxe-edition-marvin-gaye-cd/wapi/106032305 link]
*"Rolling Stone" (favorable) [http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/marvingaye/albums/album/104756/review/6210167/whats_going_on 1971]
*"Rolling Stone" rating|5|5 [http://books.google.com/books?id=lRgtYCC6OUwC&pg=PA324&vq=What's+Going+On&dq=Let's+Get+It+On+marvin+gaye&source=gbs_search_s&sig=ACfU3U0bJ5MLYJ6cw5E-2-Qyc2FpKEmKGQ 2004]
*Yahoo! Music (favorable) [http://music.yahoo.com/release/406 link]
Last album = "That's the Way Love Is"
(1970)
This album = "What's Going On"
(1971)
Next album = "Trouble Man"
(1972)Singles
Name = What's Going On
Type = studio
single 1 = What's Going On
single 1 date = January 20, 1971
single 2 = Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
single 2 date = June 10 1971
single 3 = Inner City Blues
single 3 date = September 1971

"What's Going On" is a studio album by soul musician Marvin Gaye, released May 21, 1971 on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. [http://www.discogs.com/release/359107 Discogs.com - What's Going On (US LP)] . Discogs. Retrieved on 2008-08-17.] Recording sessions for the album took place in June of 1970 and March–May of 1971 at Hitsville U.S.A., Golden World and United Sound Studios in Detroit, Michigan and at The Sound Factory in West Hollywood, California. The first Marvin Gaye album for it to be credited as produced solely by the artist himself, "What's Going On" is a unified album consisting of nine songs, most of which lead into the next. It has also been categorized as a song cycle, since the album ends on a reprise to the album's opening theme. The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing nothing but injustice, suffering and hatred.

"What's Going On" was the first album on which Motown Records' main studio band, the group of session musicians The Funk Brothers, received an official credit. Featuring introspective lyrics about drug abuse, poverty and the Vietnam War, the album was also the first to reflect the beginning of a new trend in soul music. "What's Going On" was an both an immediate commercial and critical success and has endured as a classic of early-1970s soul. In worldwide critics/artists and public surveys, it has been voted as one of the landmark recordings in pop music history and is considered to be one of the greatest albums ever made. [ [http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/Current/A211.htm Acclaimed Music - What's Going On] . www.acclaimedmusic.net. Retrieved on 2008-08-23.] RS500|6 [http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/6599121/165_lets_get_it_on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time] . Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2008-08-17.]

Conception

Background

In late March of 1970, Marvin Gaye had fallen into a deep depression following the death of his singing partner and fellow Motown artist Tammi Terrell, who died of a brain tumor earlier that month. Gaye refused to record or perform, going as far as to attempt an athletic career in football with the Detroit Lions of the NFL. After an unsuccessful tryout for the team, Gaye came in contact with musician Al Cleveland and the Four Tops' Renaldo "Obie" Benson, who were working on a politically conscious song called "What's Going On". Gaye assisted Cleveland and Benson in completing the composition, and planned to produce the song as a recording for the Motown act The Originals. However, Cleveland and "Obie" Benson persuaded Gaye to record the song himself. In June of 1970, Gaye recorded "What's Going On" and his own composition, "God Is Love", which further expanded Gaye's inclusion of his spirituality in his music.

Recording such material was a different direction for Gaye, who had previously performed and recorded radio-formatted and contemporary songs that were more representative of the Gordy-produced Motown Sound rather than politically or socially-conscious music. When Gaye delivered the songs as the sides for his next 45 RPM single, Motown Records CEO Berry Gordy, Jr. objected to the material and refused to release the recordings. After already permitting another fellow Motown artist to record and release material that hinted social and political themes – Stevie Wonder who released his 1970 single "Heaven Help Us All" and his 1971 artistic breakthrough "Where I'm Coming From" released earlier that year – Gordy considered "What's Going On" far too political to be released on radio and also too unfamiliar for the popular music and sound of that time to be commercially successful. [http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/music_review.asp?ID=375 Slant Magazine Music Review: Marvin Gaye: What's Going On] ] Gaye, however, stood his ground and lobbied his case to label executives and Gordy, as he wanted to be able to express himself creatively, and not by Gordy's or Motown's version of music on his records. In an interview for "Rolling Stone" magazine, Marvin Gaye discused what had shaped his view on more socially concsious themes in music and the conception of his eleventh studio album:

Gordy eventually gave in, certain that the record would flop. "What's Going On" became Motown's fastest selling single at that point, going to the number-one spot on the R&B charts for five weeks and number-two for three weeks on the Pop listings, with "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night retaining the top spot.

Recording

After this success, Berry Gordy requested an entire accompanying album. Gaye began recording the tracks that would eventually comprise his best-known work, the "What's Going On" album, handling all of his own production and some of his own songwriting. The entire album was originally mixed in Detroit, with Marvin Gaye out of town and not present. This mix, dubbed "The Detroit Mix", was scrapped and redone. These mixes were later released on the 2001 two-disc deluxe edition of "What's Going On", along with the original mono 45 mixes of the singles. Also included was a recording of one of Gaye's first live performances from The Kennedy Center Auditorium, Washington DC, 01-06-1972, after three years away from the stage following Tammi Terrell's illness and death.

The content of "What's Going On" was that of a politically charged and deeply personal Motown album, and was notable for including elements of jazz and classical music instrumentation and arrangements. The record was among the first soul albums to place heavy emphasis on political and social concerns such as environmentalism, political corruption, drug abuse, and the Vietnam War, in which Gaye's brother, Frankie Gaye, had served in for three years of service for the U.S. Army. However, after hearing a preliminary mix of the record, Berry Gordy was not offended by Gaye's embrace of countercultural politics, but was bothered by the album's design, which had each song leading to the next. This flow of sound was not conventional and suited for radio airplay, which seemed as Gordy's main focus; the commercial aspect. The album's stylistic manor of using a song cycle gave it a cohesive feel and lead "What's Going On" to become known as the first soul music concept albums.

Reception

Initial

The critical and commercial success of the album was immediate and significant. "What's Going On" remained on the Billboard Pop Album Charts for over a year and sold over two million copies until the end of 1972, making it Marvin Gaye's best-selling album to that date until he released "Let's Get It On" in 1973. In addition, "What's Going On" received the highest ratings from several leading American publications, including "Time", "Rolling Stone" (who named it "Album of the Year"), "The New York Times", and "Billboard", who gave it the Billboard Trend setter Award of 1971. Upon release, "Rolling Stone" magazine music critic Vince Aletti praised "What's Going On" for its thematic approach towards social and political concerns, while also mentioning the surprise of Motown releasing such an album. In a review of the album and Stevie Wonder's "Where I'm Coming From", Aletti wrote:

Later on, many artists from different musical genres covered songs from the album, most notably live recordings by Aretha Franklin ("Wholy Holy" on "Amazing Grace") and Donny Hathaway ("What's Going On" on "Donny Hathaway Live"), as well as Robert Palmer's medley of "Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You", among others. "Mercy Mercy Me" was featured as the b-side to The Strokes' single "You Only Live Once".

Awards and accolades

In 2004, the album's title track was ranked number 4 on "Rolling Stone"'s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. [cite web|url=http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/500songs|title=The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time|accessdate=2008-04-10|publisher=Rolling Stone|date=2004-12-09] A 1999 critics poll conducted by British newspaper "Guardian/Observer" named it the "Greatest Album of the 20th Century". In 1997, "What's Going On" was named the 17th greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, "The Guardian" and Classic FM. In 1998 "Q" magazine readers placed it at number 97, while in 2001 the TV network VH1 placed it at number 4. In 2003, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. "What's Going On" was ranked #6 on "Rolling Stone" magazine's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, one of three Gaye albums to be included, preceded by 1973's "Let's Get It On" (#165) and 1978's "Here My Dear" (#462). [ [http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5938174/the_rs_500_greatest_albums_of_all_time The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time] . Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2008-08-23.] The album is Gaye's highest ranking entry on the list, as well as several other publications' lists.

Track listing

"All songs produced by Marvin Gaye."

ide one

#"What's Going On" (Cleveland, M. Gaye, Benson) – 3:53
#"What's Happening Brother" (Nyx, M. Gaye) – 2:43
#"Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)" (M. Gaye, A. Gaye, E. Stover) – 3:49
#"Save the Children" (Cleveland, M. Gaye, Benson) – 4:03
#"God Is Love" (M. Gaye, A. Gaye, E.Stover, Nyx) – 1:41
#"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (M. Gaye) – 3:16

ide two

#"Right On" (DeRouen, M. Gaye) – 7:31
#"Wholy Holy" (Cleveland, M. Gaye, Benson) – 3:08
#"Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" (M. Gaye, Nyx) – 5:26

Chart history

Album

ingles

Personnel

* All lead vocals by Marvin Gaye
* Produced by Marvin Gaye
* Orchestra Conducted and Arranged by David Van De Pitte
*Background Voices:
**Marvin Gaye
**The Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps)
**Mel Farr and Lem Barney of the Detroit Lions
**Bobby Rogers of The Miracles
**Elgie Stover
**Kenneth Stover
*Instrumentation by The Funk Brothers
**Marvin Gayepiano, drums, keyboards
**James Jamersonbass guitar (All tracks except "Mercy, Mercy Me" and "Inner City Blues")
**Earl Van Dyke – piano
**Bob Babbittbass guitar ("Mercy, Mercy Me" and "Inner City Blues")
**Joe Messinaguitar
**Robert White – guitar
**Eli Fountain – alto saxophone
**Wild Bill Mooretenor saxophone
**Chet Forest – drums
*Katherine Marking – graphic design
*Alana Coghlan – graphic design
*John Matousek – mastering
*James Hendin – Photography
*Curtis McNair – Art Direction

References


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