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Marvin Gaye's music with a message

With the release of "What's Going On Live", fans of the legendary singer are treated to some of his most politically-charged music.

By Marc Zisman | Video of the Day | October 25, 2019

In 2001, Marvin Gaye fans were treated to a previously unreleased live performance from their idol (recorded on May 1, 1972 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.) in the bonus section of the Deluxe Edition of the masterpiece What’s Going On (released a year earlier, in May 1971). This October 2019 sees the astounding concert benefit from autonomous publication as well as remastering and 24-Bit processing as What's Going On Live.

At the time, the singer was at a turning point in his career. Shaken by the death of his colleague Tammi Terrell, who died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 24, Marvin Gaye withdrew from the business and fell into depression. However, he soon returned to music.

As America was fighting its own demons, both internal (segregation) and external (Vietnam), he released a masterpiece of thought-provoking soul. Packed with politically engaged prose, What’s Going On appeared on the label Motown and questioned what the American dream really meant.

Marvin Gaye made his message resonate like no other: the album is a skilfully measured symphony, with strings that seem to hypnotise the rhythms and choirs. It was the cornerstone of black American music, which made it somewhat difficult to release as Berry Gordy, Motown’s boss, feared that this highly politicised work would ruin the positive image of both his label and protégé.

With What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye forced Gordy to face up to the Vietnamese conflict, interracial tensions and the degradation of major American cities. And the album was an immediate success.

For the first time, a Motown record was created differently, without Gordy’s total control. This live recording from Gaye’s hometown showcases his artistic transition by starting with a sumptuous medley of his hits from the sixties, including the brilliant song I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

On What's Going On Live, Marvin Gaye performs the wonders from that album, a record that went through a lot of changes in the studio. Throughout the concert (which lasts just over an hour) he stretches out certain songs, improvises and above all communicates with his audience like never before.


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