Marvin Gaye

From the beginning of Marvin Gaye’s music career, he had accomplished a lot. He started as a session drummer and then later in his career he also had many releases in multiple different genres ranging from Motown, R&B, Jazz, and Soul (Marvin Gaye Biography, 2012). His most famous album, What’s Going On, has a very interesting story because of what it was influence by and its content.

Before the making of What’s Going On in 1971, Gaye was known for his popular and catchy tunes in the Motown genre (Marvin Gaye Biography, 2012). A few examples of his best hits prior to then include How Sweet It Is, It Takes Two, and Ain’t No Mountain High EnoughAfter his duet partner Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor, her death had a major impact on his life and would be a part of what influenced his next album What’s Going On (Cordy, 2013).

Before the idea for this album the first song, What’s Going On, was brought to him by Obie Benson of Four Tops. The Motown head, Berry Gordy Jr, did not want Gaye to record this song but after Gaye refused to record for six months, Berry proceeded to let him record it. After it became a big success Gaye was given the green light to record a whole album similar to the sound of this song (Cordy, 2013). The What’s Going On album had many influences. According to Cordy, “Gaye’s own troubles with drugs, police brutality, the return of Gaye’s brother Frankie from serving in Vietnam, violence, and pollution” are the influences behind this album (2013).

Prior to the release of the What’s Going On album, there wasn’t many artists in the Soul genre, speaking about social and political issues. Gaye was the one to incorporate these issues into his songs in the Soul genre. While listening to this album I was definitely impressed. I was impressed by the quality and the arrangement of the album, but also how pleasant it sounded while still talking about major issues. Another aspect of this album I thoroughly enjoyed was the transition from one song to the next. It was as if it was one song throughout and the transitions seemed seem-less. The whole album was well thought out worked extremely well together.


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