The Struggle behind Marvin Gaye’s Breakthrough Album “What’s Going On”

Marvin Gaye pic

Marvin Gaye

Larry Soldinger serves as managing partner of L J Soldinger Associates, LLC, in Deer Park, Illinois, where he offers corporate clients a full range of financial and accounting services. A music enthusiast with tastes spanning Motown and Chicago blues, Larry Soldinger enjoys classic R&B artists such as Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.

Born in Washington, D.C., Gaye grew up with a strict father who was a minster. His music career began in the 1950s. He sang in his father’s church and joined the vocal trio The New Moonglows. He achieved his first solo hit in 1962 as an up-and-coming Motown singer and was a session drummer for the likes of The Supremes and Little Stevie Wonder.

The social and political turmoil of the late 1960s brought Marvin Gaye to the fore with his landmark 1971 album What’s Going On. The album reflected his intense personal struggles, including the death of his duet partner Tammi Terrell and her protracted struggle with cancer. At the same time, his brother Frankie returned from military service in Vietnam with stories that caused Gaye to rethink many things.

Most Motown artists during this time studiously avoided publicly communicating about social issues, but Marvin Gaye put the full weight of his reputation as an artist behind a project that did the complete opposite. . Only Stevie Wonder was a firm supporter of Gaye’s vision, and the record was given minimal marketing support. Surprising everyone, What’s Going On reached the top of the charts, selling more than 100,000 copies in the first week alone and becoming one of the defining soul records of a generation.


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