The legendary Marvin Gaye’s seminal album turns fifty.
Marvin Gaye famously sang that “war is not the answer” in his signature protest song “What’s Going On.”
But for the late Motown legend, football was the answer to help lift him out of a deep depression after the 1970 death of Tammi Terrell — his frequent duet partner on hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” — and into creating “What’s Going On,” his classic album that was released 50 years ago on May 21, 1971.
Be mindful of the bit about Tammi Terrell. You’ll be seeing this material again.
“It was during a time when he was trying out for the Detroit Lions and being a football player,” said David Ritz, author of 1985’s “Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye,” the definitive biography of the singer. “He was a good athlete, and he had this notion of wondering if he could turn pro, but I’m not sure he had the chops. But he certainly had the drive.”
Ultimately, his would-be teammates stepped in. “They told him, ‘Hey Marvin, we’re crazy about you, but go home ‘cause we don’t want to hurt you.’”
Still, Gaye went on to become such good buddies with Detroit Lions players Lem Barney and Mel Farr that they teamed up to provide background vocals on “What’s Going On,” the song that inspired and introduced Gaye’s masterpiece album, which last year Rolling Stone ranked at No. 1 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In addition to coming in at Numero Uno on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list, along with a tremendous number of other Best Ever enumerations from around the planet, What’s Going On remains the biggest-selling album Motown ever has had.
You DID remember what I said about keeping that Tammi Terrell mention fresh in mind, right? As promised, we’re coming back to that material, if from a somewhat sideways direction. See, although Marvelous Marvin did indeed produce a whole slew of truly wonderful work with Terrell, the duet of his I always liked best was with Kim Weston.
No slight whatever intended to Tammi Terrell, of course or any of the other artists fortunate enough to have shared a mic with Marvin Gaye. But that right there’s some goooood squishy.
Well, that kinda depends on what the question is, doesn’t it?
I don’t know Mike. This album has declined in my estimation steadily for a long time now. Let me post what I wrote at another site to sum it up (Long in short, it’s the First Woke Album):
If you delve into the album itself you see some good musicianship cloaking a horrific set of lyrics invoking the beginnings of every Leftist Woke Trope of today. It’s probably one of the most vapid, Leftist POS albums ever made. It’s a wonder why Ed likes it. 🙄
Just the titles says it all.
Flying High (drug abuse).
Save the Children (do it for the chirrun!!!)
Mercy, Mercy Me (It’s the Ecology) (Envirowhackos must Save Gaia by ending White Man’s Capitalism)
Wholy Holy (Leftism as Religion)
Inner City Blues (the beginnings of the Gangsta Culture – at least back then they lamented it instead of celebrating it).
What’s Going On, Marvin? Leftism is going on and your answer was More Leftism even though it was already failing back then.
Pretty soon Marvin was drug addled and producing nothing of note anymore except for the occasional single. Finally it all caught up to him in a drunken debacle of being shot by your own father. A real tragedy for someone who produced some great stuff in the Sixties like How Sweet It Is, Ain’t That Peculiar, Grapevine, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and many others.
Plus the virtue signaling of elevating it to #1 of all time because BLM sounds like cancel culture against the Beatles, Stones, Dylan and other White artists that dominated that list before.
I just don’t like What’s Going On that much anymore except as a historical take on the times and where Leftism and the Inner Cities connection made black culture slide off the rails and crash and burn. Literally now, burn.
Oh man, “Ain’t That Peculiar.” What a song. Now I know what tonight’s Tune Damage embed is gonna be…
I saw that post. Bedtime now. I’ll give my thoughts tomorrow.